When Louisville first played Rutgers in New Jersey a little over a month ago, they left with their closest margin of victory on the season. Beating the Scarlet Knights 83-76. When Rutgers re-matched the Cards Sunday night in the KFC Yum! Center, they left with a 102-54 loss.
“We shot the ball well and when you do that and don’t turn it over and play hard, it makes your defense better and you play better in all phases of the game,” Head Coach Rick Pitino said. “I am very excited about the victory. Our guys just nailed their focus. They really pay no attention to whom they’re playing and they just play hard. They aren’t always going to win but they will play their butts off.”
Senior guard Russ Smith came out and immediately hit a three-pointer, which was followed by three’s from senior small forward Luke Hancock and junior guard Chris Jones. The shots kept falling.
The Cards shot 56 percent from the field. Seven different players hit from behind the three-point line combining for 16 made three-pointers.
Hancock scored a career high 25 points, hitting six of eight three’s in the process. He also pulled down six rebounds.
Freshman guard Terry Rozier hit four three’s and scored a career high 16 points. He also led the team in assists with four and steals with three.
Sophomore forward Montrezl Harrell led the Cards with nine rebounds and added two blocks.
The Cards had 23 assists and committed only nine turnovers. They had 11 steals among Rutgers’ 18 total turnovers.
The Cards have won four in a row and are in the last month of regular season play. To improve team spirits and just simply have fun the players and coaches, including Pitino, are not shaving until they lose a game. Last year the Cardinals ended their season on a 16-game win streak and Pitino held true to his promise of getting a tattoo. Card Nation hopes that the light-hearted magic of Pitino’s antics will work two years in a row.
“What we try to do in the dog days of February is try to do things that make sure we have fun. People get tired. I told the guys, ‘let’s have some fun.’ February is a tough month. I have never had a beard in my life, not even in college,” Pitino said.
The beards may be a good thing to adopt because the rest of the Cards’ schedule is more than tough. Road games at Cincinnati, SMU and Memphis and then UConn at home once more will give the Cards plenty of opportunities to clean their faces.
The Cardinals host USF Tuesday, February 18 at 7:00 pm.