The University of Louisville basketball team can’t afford for Terry Rozier to have a bad day, as was painfully obvious in a 74-65 loss to North Carolina State.
Not that NC State was doing anything special to contain him. Rozier was just having one of those games, with shots bounding off and away from the rim. Not a factor on the boards either, mysteriously out of the mix on missed shots. Going through the motions on defense.
Three of 11 from the field, one of two free throws attempts, for seven points. One rebound. Five fouls in only 24 minutes. A game to forget, quickly put behind him.
On a day when Louisville could have moved two games ahead of North Carolina in the Atlantic Coast Conference standings. Six games remaining, gonna be a dogfight for that fourth seed in the ACC Tournament.
NC State did have a plan for Montrezl Harrell, another player having an abysmal day offensively on Valentine’s Day. Harrell’s every move challenged by NC State defenders, knowing they need not fear Chinanu Onuaku, Mangok Mathiang or Anas Mahmoud around the basket.
That early dunk by Onuaku, uncontested but a split second pause before deciding to accept the gift. Mathiang unable to get the hang of those two-foot gimmes, blowing five chances. Mahmoud not attempting any.
Harrell limited to five shots, making only one, and no it wasn’t a dunk, for seven points. He did have 13 rebounds, but only two on the offensive board where UofL desperately needed a few.
Wayne Blackshear, recovering from hip pointer, contributing 14 points in the first half, unable to make himself available much of the second half, winding up with 19, including four of six 3-point shots. Progress, but he will never carry this team on his shoulders.
Chris Jones, back after his 12-minute exile during the Pittsburgh game, leading his team with 20 points. Managing only three assists, however, while making numerous unproductive trips down the lane. Easier to shoot than scavenging for open teammates.
* * *
In his radio show interview with Bob Valvano afterward, Coach Rick Pitino dwelling on the “they” after the loss, instead of the “we” approach.
“They let their offense dictate the game. They’re worried too much about scoring.”
“They don’t get it that defense wins games. They turn the defense on and off,”
“They haven’t been a cohesive unit all season long.”
Pitino has only done that five times during a 20-5 season.