All business on defense, the University of Louisville shutting down Rutgers in all parts of the game, allowing no unchallenged passes, shots or rebounds, exhausting the shellshocked Scarlet Knights.
Total domination, 92-31.
Everybody’s on the same page now. Constant pressure on the ball, relentless, flawless. For the second game in a row, UConn last week, Rutgers on Thursday, the opposition depleted of any semblance of offensive efficiency.
Not new for a Rick Pitino team, but having recently been passionately embraced by this team, the stepped-up defensive complexity and intensity have arrived just in time, making Louisville a much different team.
Change is occurring not only on defense but on offense with this Louisville team.
Imagine Russ Smith going almost an entire half without taking a shot, passing up shot after shot, looking for assist after assist. It would happen for the second game in a row, but Russ would still wind up with 16 points. Thirteen assists against UConn, five that seemed like a lot more against Rutgers and would have been if his teammates weren’t missing open shots.
How does an opposing defense prepare for a Russ Smith who isn’t jacking up shots every other trip down court? Prepare for the new one at one’s peril, because the old Russ is never far away. He will, indeed, do whatever is necessary to help his team win.
Chris Jones, returning home again, this time more focused than ever, leading all scorers with 18 points, including three-of-four threes. Jones had four assists, five rebounds, as well. But it was those six steals by Jones a real indicator of how much he has bought into Pitino’s defensive mandate.
Pitino knows what he wants, what it takes, and what he will get this time of the season, with players totally committed to his system. Already fun again.