There was good, there was bad, and there was ugly. Real ugly. Buzz’s girlfriend in Home Alone ugly. Rocky Dennis ugly. You get the picture.
The first half was what you wanted to see. Even though shots weren’t falling, the defense was a buzz saw that led to easy baskets and a Louisville lead by 17 that seemed insurmountable at the half.
Senior Wayne Blackshear came up big for the Cards, finishing with 22 points (6/13 from the field, 6/7 from the free throw line, and 4/8 from behind the arc) 6 rebounds, and 3 steals. Would have liked to see him get more involved in the closing minutes even though Terry Rozier hit two clutch threes to keep Ohio State’s second half comeback out of reach.
While Louisville is offensively challenged and the game appeared to be on the verge of getting out of hand, this was a good test early on for Rick Pitino’s Cardinals. Instead of cruising to another 30+ point victory, Louisville appeared to let off the gas, and looked apathetic about attacking the Buckeye’s zone. Pitino can now address some situational awareness, and his offense versus a zone which really gave the Cards some problems in the second half.
Part of that problem comes from trigger happy point guard Chris Jones. Jones finished with 10 points on 3/15 shooting. 10 of those shots were threes in which he made 3, and one free throw. He also had 3 assists, but turned it over 4 times. Former Louisville point guard Peyton Siva tweeted this during the game.
I hope that finds its way onto Chris Jones timeline.
The best benefit from this game, aside from a signature win over a top 20 team were the key minutes from freshman big man Anas Mahmoud. With Onuaku in foul trouble and Mathiang dealing with an ankle sprain, the 7ft Egyptian logged 24 minutes and played well enough to shock the hell out of Pitino. He looked much more comfortable on both ends of the floor, rebounded well, and altered several shots. His progression will go a long way if Onuaku or Harrell deal with foul trouble.
Terry Rozier emerged late, scoring 9 points in the final 3 minutes. He did so after dislocating his pinky, and appears to be the guy to take the a shot when the Cards need it. It wasn’t Rozier’s best game, giving the ball away 5 times, and shooting just 3-11 from the field, but he finished strong, and added 7 rebounds and 7 assists.
While the second half left a bit of an uneasy feeling to an otherwise impressive showing, it will be a big win come March. Shooting will improve as Pitino will fine tune his offense, and guys get into more of a rhythm after having a week inbetween games. The defense is March made, and will give Louisville opportunities to win when shots aren’t falling.