By Noah Allison–
With his game-high 25 points, sophomore guard Terry Rozier led Louisville to a 66-53 victory over the University of Northern Iowa.
“He’s big-time. Great kid, defense was terrific, execution awesome,” Louisville Head Coach Rick Pitino said.
With the win, the Louisville Cardinals advance to their fourth straight Sweet Sixteen to take on the North Carolina State Wolfpack.
Louisville, a four seed, was a 2.5-point underdog to the fifth-seeded UNI. Northern Iowa finished the regular season with a 31-4 record and an 11th overall ranking.
The Panthers boasted one of the top defenses in the nation as well as a potent offense led by senior forward, All-American Seth Tuttle who finished the game with 14 points and seven rebounds.
“We know how good they are, they have a lot of seniors and they can shoot the three very well so we just tried to come in here and keep them off the backboard and take away their three point abilities and we did a pretty good job,” Rozier said.
Louisville won the rebounding battle 28 to 24 while UNI committed 10 turnovers to U of L’s seven. Louisville got a major lift by having one of its best shooting performances of the season, going 22-48 from the field with a 46 shooting percent.
“Normally, we stay very aggressive on defense and our message tonight was stay very aggressive on offense,” Pitino said. “Swing the ball east to west and then attack north to south. We really played great offense tonight, so proud of our guys because we haven’t been a great offensive team and tonight we were because of our spacing, our ability and Terry Rozier.”
Along with his 25 points, Rozier added a team-high seven assists and five rebounds. The starters gave their usual contribution as junior forward Montrezl Harrell had 14 points, seven rebounds and two blocks. Freshman guard Quentin Snider had 10 points and five rebounds while senior forward Wayne Blackshear also added 10 points and five rebounds. But Louisville also got key minutes from freshman forward Jaylen Johnson who had four rebounds and three points.
From the stressful and unsure times of a month ago when starting guard Chris Jones was dismissed from the team, few were sure of the potential of this year’s Cardinal team. Now, they are headed to their fourth straight Sweet Sixteen.
“We grew a lot this whole season. We all leaned on one another and we just got the job done, we’re all brothers. We came in and knew it was a tough task but we got the job done and that’s the most important thing,” Rozier said.
“I’m so darn happy,” Pitino said. “You know I’ve been at 20 NCAA’s and I look forward to it so much. I’m so pumped up and so excited.”