LOUISVILLE — Hangover after Armageddon?
Not Tuesday in the KFC Yum Center, where No. 5 Louisville bounced back from Saturday's loss to Kentucky by upending Long Beach State, 63-48.
"For 30 minutes, that is the best basketball we have played all year," U of L Coach Rick Pitino said. "That team and Indiana are the toughest defensively to guard because they will put five guys on the perimeter, create a lot of movement. And our guys were brilliant on defense with their switching and maneuvering, but then we turned it around and we were great passing the basketball.
"Then, for a period in the second half, we hunted shots and didn't pass it as well, and we didn't look as good. But for 30-32 minutes of basketball, that is the best we have looked all year. I thought Quentin (Snider) gave us a big lift. Wayne Blackshear was sick, throwing up before the game, and we really appreciate his toughness in gutting it out."
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Terry Rozier led the Cardinals (12-1) with 23 points, seven rebounds, three steals and a career-best six steals. Montrezl Harrell added 16 points. Blackshear had 12 points and seven rebounds.
Pitino mixed in plenty of role players with those three solid starters. Anas Mahmoud and Shaqquan Aaron earned their first career starts, while Snider and Mangok Mathiang came off the bench to log 26 and 20 minutes, respectively.
Out of the lineup were point guard Chris Jones and center Chinanu Onuaku. The latter has slipped to No. 3 on the depth chart, Pitino said. Jones was benched for faking a foul during the UK game.
"I didn't start him because of the flop issue," Pitino said. "I was very upset at that. We don't do that type of thing. Then to fake it with the jaw, like he got hit. You can't fake it."
Mahmoud scored four points — U of L's first four — and added three rebounds and two blocks in 21 minutes.
"I don't think we have been getting anything out of our five spot. And we tried playing him when we simulated Kentucky, and he kept getting pushed out of bounds," Pitino said of Mahmoud, the 7-foot, 200-pound freshman from Egypt. "We knew Kentucky, Duke and maybe two or three other opponents are not for him. But we are hopeful we can get some more strength on him. We're hopeful that by the 15th we get him up to 210, and hope we can get him to 215. Then at least maybe he can hold his own. He's the best passer, shot-blocker, shooter that we have. He's just very weak."
U of L, which shot a season-low 25.9 percent against Kentucky, lit up Long Beach for 51.2 percent (21 of 41), while holding the 49ers to 36.0 percent (18 of 50).
Long Beach (5-10) finished winless on a six-game road trip.
"I thought Louisville's defense was something we couldn't get comfortable with until it was too late," 49ers Coach Dan Monson said. "We finally started attacking and not turning it over, and the deficit was too much. But I thought our guys fought."
Branford Jones topped the 49ers with 13 points. Mike Caffey added 11 and David Samuels scored 10.
Louisville closed the first half with a 14-0 run to take a 34-19 lead into the locker room.
U of L's big three accounted for all the points — seven by Blackshear, four by Harrell and a three-pointer by Rozier.
The lead grew to 22 at 45-23 early in the second half.
The margin was 19 when Long Beach went on a 7-0 run to pull to within 49-37 with 7:56 left.
The 49ers came as close as nine points, 57-48, with 2:42 left. Caffey then had a three-point try that could have made it a two-possession game, but the shot didn't fall.
And neither did Louisville.