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    Louisville Basketball Joins the Sweet 16 Again, Smashes Northern Iowa 66-53
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    In the NCAA Basketball Tournament’s Round of 32, the University of Louisville Cardinals drew Northern Iowa for their second game for a chance to advance to the Sweet 16, a place not unfamiliar to the Cards. So the two midwestern teams who were seeded in the East played in Seattle for the right to continue the dance. It would be Louisville as they trounced UNI 66-53

    In the previous game against the University of California Irvine, all questions about the ability of Quentin Snider to lead the Cards from his point guard position were put to rest. The freshman balled out of control on a day when Montrezl Harrell struggled and the center position had to play against a team with a 7 foot 6 inch player.

    Other good news from that game came from Wayne Blackshear, who put the team on his back and willed them to victory. Statistically, it’s been Blackshear’s best year, yet pundits have called him streaky and inconsistent. He took the time to shut those people up on Friday. Against the Panthers, he hit his 1,000th career point.

    A lot of bracket experts predicted that this game would be the one where the lack of Chris Jones would catch up to Louisville and send the Bird Gang packing. They probably didn’t remember how well Snider has filled the gap. And they probably forgot Terry Rozier can score from anywhere. Was he in a little slump toward the end of the season? Sure. Did he light it up against Northern Iowa. That answer would be an emphatic yes, to the tune of 16 first half points.

    In the early going, the three pointer was UNI’s friend and the Cardinals were able to answer to keep the game close. Because the Panthers are good from long distance, the Cardinal defense had to adjust. On offense, Mangok Mathiang tried to get going to open the floor for Harrell and Blackshear. He struggled to find the basket. Chinanu Onuaku came in the game early at the five spot.

    What the Louisville defense did was force UNI to use all the shot clock so that when they did make an attempt from beyond the arc, it wasn’t really the shot they wanted. They chucked it up because the shot clock was running out. That strategy helped drop the Panther three ball shooting percentage.

    In order to keep up that defense, the Cards pushed Jaylen Johnson, Shaqquan Aaron and Anton Gill into the rotation. Johnson played sparingly against UCI and Gill and Aaron didn’t play at all. Aaron got the call with Blackshear getting into early foul trouble. Welcome to the big dance.

    Toward the end of the first half, a dirty play from Northern Iowa’s Seth Tuttle sent Harrell to the floor. Harrell got tagged with the foul even though Tuttle slammed his hand into the All-American’s face. Tough kid that he is, Harrell stayed in the game. The Cards hit the locker room with a 36-27 lead.

    To open the second half, UNI tried to get a frustrated Tuttle going. The way the officials called the game, he was able to bang around in the paint and get Mathiang out of the game for a while with foul issues. He had to smile inwardly because it was Mathaing that kept him stifled.

    Meanwhile Rozier kept attacking the rim. His crossover move was devastating and the Panthers couldn’t figure out the puzzle of the Rozier fade away. And with his dribble penetration, he was able to set up teammates for open looks.

    There was a stretch when the Louisville offense went to sleep, but it was after they had taken a 12 point lead and it left the Panthers with a mountain to climb against that tough Cardinal defense. Northern Iowa got to within 6 before Louisville found the bucket again.

    As the clock wound down, the Cards guarded the perimeter as if their NCAA Tournament depended on it. Because it did. And when Rozier saw Harrell running the floor the alley-oop was not only a foregone conclusion, it was impressive and drew a foul. Harrell completed the three point play the old fashioned way.

    Rozier was the star with 25 points and 7 assists. Harrell hit for 14 points and 6 rebounds. Snider punched in 10 points as did Blackshear. Mathiang’s stats won’t show how he stopped UNI’s Tuttle, but he kept their star in check for most of the game.

    Next for the Cards, a date with North Carolina State in Syracuse as they enter the Sweet 16 for the fourth year in a row.

    Photo by: Tim Girton/

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    About Tim Girton

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

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