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    Harrell, Louisville Basketball Power Past Pitt 69-56
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    Following Saturday’s loss to #3 Virginia, the University of Louisville basketball Cardinals (20-4, 8-3 ACC) returned home to the allegedly tight rims at the KFC Yum! Center to take on the Pittsburgh Panthers (16-9, 5-6) in the home rematch of a late January matchup. Louisville won that one 80-68. The Cards won this one 69-56.

    The Panthers were riding a 3 game winning streak which included a win over tenth ranked Notre Dame. They were also looking for revenge on the Cards. For it’s part, Louisville got its mojo back on the backs of Pitt after tough losses to North Carolina and Duke. The Cards evened the score against North Carolina but will have to wait til the ACC tournament to get another shot at Duke.

    Coach Rick Pitino’s ninth ranked squad reached the 20 win plateau for the 13th consecutive season. All the pundits point to that statistic to determine of a season has been successful. And, even though it’s a pretty safe bet for the Cards, the NCAA Selection Committee uses the 20 win mark to determine who dances in March.

    If they made determinations based on effort however, Montrezl Harrell would be first on the floor. The junior forward finished with another double-double. 28 points and 12 rebounds. Once he caught fire, the offense clearly ran through him at the low and high post. “I’m kind of amazed at Montrezl Harrell. His motor is kind of incredible,” Pitino said.

    As the game began, Pitt started out on fire but then settled back into a rhythm that was successful, but not enough to keep the Cards off the defensive glass. At halftime Louisville only had one offensive rebound but pulled in 15 from the Panther backboard. Part of that amount was they way they limited Pittsburgh to 31% shooting.

    Wayne Blackshear left the court early in the half and didn’t return because he was suffering through a hip pointer. That meant Shaqquan Aaron got early playing time and he was serviceable while not being a scorer. Harrell had 14 at the half to spark the team and Chris Jones put in 7.

    As with previous efforts, Pitino kept looking for scoring help from his bench, but not getting it. By halftime Louisville held a 27-22 lead even though they had no fast break or second chance points.

    To open the second half, the Panthers came out on fire and taking the lead, going up by as many as 6. But with judicious time outs and a switch to a full court trapping defense, Louisville went back on top and at one point, held 17 point lead.

    Some of that, oddly enough, came from the bench with Anas Mahmoud, Quentin Snider and Anton Gill combining for 8 points. “Q did an excellent job,” Pitino said. He would have to because he had to stay on the point for most of the rest of the way because point guard Jones came out in the second half and sat on the bench with an intense frustration on his face and a swift kick to the seat. Pitino would not put him back in. “I wasn’t happy with Chris,” the coach said. “He had a bad night.”

    On the night, Louisville held Pitt to 38% shooting while shooting 50% themselves. The stiff defense led to good shots on offense as evidenced by the Cards getting 16 points off turnovers. But the lid was on the rim from distance. Pitino said, “It’s the first time since 1992 we haven’t made a three.” He also mentioned that you don’t need the three when you defend and take good shots.

    Shooting guard Terry Rozier, in a funk for a while, perked up and poured in 22 points and pulled down 10 rebounds. At halftime he only had 4 and you thought, wow, Terry’s not having a good game. Then you looked up during the Cards big run and you see Rozier returned to being Rozier.

    Next for Louisville is a Saturday meeting at the KFC Yum! Center against NC State. Tip off is at 4pm.

    Photos by: Tim Girton/Louisville.com

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    About Tim Girton

    Tim Girton writes about University of Louisville sports here at Louisville.com and his love for Louisville continues on his photoblog, called This Is Louisville.

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