By Sam Draut–
After a 66-53 victory over Northern Iowa late Sunday night, Louisville advances to their fourth consecutive Sweet 16 and will play NC State on Friday.
The Cardinals (26-8) will head to Syracuse, NY to face the eighth-seeded Wolfpack.
ACC foe NC State (22-13) defeated Louisville 74-65 on February 14 at the KFC YUM! Center.
NC State opened the NCAA tournament with a 66-65 victory over ninth seeded LSU and then pulled off an upset of top seeded Villanova, winning 71-68.
In the mid-February matchup against Louisville, NC State held forward Montrezl Harrell to seven points while also limiting Terry Rozier to seven points on 3 of 11 shooting.
In Louisville’s first two NCAA tournament games, UC Irvine and Northern Iowa were able to contain Harrell. The junior is averaging 11 points and five rebounds in two NCAA tournament contests, well below his season average of 15.5 points and 9.3 rebounds per game.
Before Sunday night’s game against Northern Iowa, Rozier had been caught in a month long shooting slump. But, the sophomore guard erupted for 25 points, seven assists and five rebounds to carry the Cardinals to victory. Rozier shot 8 of 13 from the field and 8 of 9 from the free throw line to key Louisville’s efficient offense.
At times during the year, the anemic offense led to Louisville’s struggles, but against a highly touted Northern Iowa defense, the Cardinals appeared more fluid and confident as they ran through their half court sets.
In the first contest against NC State, Louisville shot just 20 of 61 from the field for 32.8 percent and could not find a cohesive rhythm.
On the other end of the floor, NC State guards Cat Barber and Trevor Lacey shredded the defense.
Barber finished with a game high 21 points and added four assists. Lacey had 14 points, five rebounds and four assists.
The two guards combine for 28 points per game through two NCAA tournament games. Against Villanova, Lacey scored 17 points, two nights earlier, Barber dropped 17 on LSU.
Louisville has been to four Elite 8s over the past seven years, to advance this season, the Cardinals will need another individual performance to guide them to victory.
On Friday, Wayne Blackshear led the way with 19 points and seven rebounds. Freshman guard Quentin Snider added 16 points and sank the two game clinching free throws with 8.9 seconds left.
Terry Rozier lifted up the Cardinal offense against Northern Iowa, but seldom used freshman forward Jaylen Johnson provided energy off the bench with four rebounds and three points in six minutes of play.
And with four full days to prepare, head coach Rick Pitino can put together a potent game plan to combat the streaky NC State attack. Pitino is 11-1 all-time in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament.
Photo by Austin Lassell / The Louisville Cardinal