By Sam Draut–
After a hard fought 57-55 victory on Friday against UC Irvine, Louisville faces fifth-seeded Northern Iowa Sunday evening at 9:40 p.m. in Seattle for a spot in the Sweet 16.
The Panthers’ 6-foot-8 forward Seth Tuttle was one of the premier players in the Missouri Valley Conference this season, averaging 15.3 points and 6.9 rebounds per game.
Louisville head coach Rick Pitino compared Northern Iowa’s style of play to Virginia, citing the strong defensive principles and variety of offensive threats.
“They have six players that shoot better than 40 percent from the three-point line. They have a great inside attack,” Pitino said.
“This team is as good as any team we have played this year,” Pitino said. “So, our players know that. They’re ranked ninth and 11th in the country, so they’re higher ranked than us.”
For the first time since the 2012 NCAA tournament, Louisville will go into the game as an underdog. As of Saturday, Northern Iowa was a 2.5 point favorite.
The Cardinal’s two best players were limited against UC Irvine, but both will be needed for Louisville to advance to their fourth consecutive Sweet 16. Montrezl Harrell and Terry Rozier combined for 18 points on Friday, well below their combined season average of 32.5 points per game.
In the absence of Rozier and Harrell, senior forward Wayne Blackshear scored 19 points while freshman guard Quentin Snider scored 16 points and hit two game-clinching free throws.
“We leaned on each other down the stretch and we all came together and we didn’t rely on one person or the other person. We just went out there and played basketball and we played plays down the stretch,” Rozier said. “I think we’re coming along as we just keep growing with one another.”
Northern Iowa (31-3) defeated Wyoming 71-54 to advance to the round of 32.