Louisville is moving on to the Elite Eight after dispatching NC State 75-65 on Friday in a East Regional Semifinal in Syracuse, N.Y.
And given all of the adversity the Cardinals have fought through this season, that’s quite an accomplishment. Think about it this way. The Cardinals lost their third-best player in Chris Jones to a dismissal following a myriad of problems late in the season. Their offense is currently sitting at 75th nationally according to KenPom. How Rick Pitino has this team sitting in the Elite Eight with a very real chance for a Final Four berth is incredible. Then again, I guess we shouldn’t doubt him, given that this will remarkably be his 11th Elite Eight in his past 20 seasons as a college coach.
The star tonight was Montrezl Harrell, who scored 24 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Terry Rozier also provided his typical support by scoring 17 and grabbing just a completely absurd 14 rebounds considering he’s only 6-foot-1. Quentin Snider was also extremely steady, as the freshman point guard who replaced Jones late in the year had 14 with three assists and only one turnover.
In general, the offense has legitimately been a strength over the past two games. They have a 118.4 offensive rating in those two games, which is nearly 11 points higher than their season average. The flow seems better with Quentin Snider at the helm, and now that he’s comfortable they’re playing well. If he can continue that, the Cardinals could easily continue on to the next level and head to Indianapolis. NC State coach Mark Gottfried even mentioned that he thinks they’re better without Jones in the postgame.
“They got better, too, after Chris Jones left, which is a sign of the job he did with his team because they improved,” Gottfried said about Pitino’s coaching job. “And here they are sitting in the Elite Eight. Tremendous, tremendous job by those guys.”
The first half of this one was terrific fun, especially late. It felt like Louisville should have been up a few more than it was after getting eight early Wayne Blackshear points, but they could never do better than mustering a six-point lead. NC State knocked down five of its 10 3-point attempts, including this one from Ralston Turner near the end of the half after Cat Barber got a rebound while on the ground and passed it out to the wing for an assist.
Barber continued his hot play in the second half, knocking down two 3s to stretch the lead all the way out to eight to start the half. However, Louisville quickly went on a run to take the lead back behind eight quick Harrell points. The Wolfpack came back to take a quick one-point lead after a Lacey 3 with about eight minutes to go, but that was the best they could do as the Cardinals went on a 14-3 run to push their lead all the way out to 10, which ended up being the final margin following a flurry of free throws at the end. Anton Gill had seven points during the run, his only seven of the contest.
“I just saw I had an opportunity,” Gill said. “We had worked hard all season, and I didn’t want to go home. By whatever means I’ve got, I just want to try to make something happen.”
The Cardinals now move onto the Elite Eight, where they will take on the winner of the Oklahoma-Michigan State game later in Syracuse.