Rushed Reactions: #4 Louisville 66, #5 Northern Iowa 53

Posted by Andrew Murawa on March 23rd, 2015


Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

All Smiles as Louisville Advanced to Its Fourth Straight FInal Four (USA Today Images)

It Was All Smiles as Louisville Advanced to Its Fourth Straight Sweet Sixteen (USA Today Images)

  1. Four-Point Swing. With 3:45 remaining on the game clock and Northern Iowa still hanging around, sophomore guard Jeremy Morgan was racing upcourt with the ball and a clear path to the basket. With Louisville’s athletes chasing him and their spectacular blocked shots surely in the back of his mind, Morgan opted for a nice dump off pass to teammate Wes Washpun. Washpun’s layup attempt was caught up to and rejected from behind by Louisville’s Wayne Blackshear, leading to a transition opportunity the other way and a Montrezl Harrell dunk to complete a four-point swing that extended the Cardinals’ lead back to eight points. From that point on, the game was never again in doubt.
  2. Athleticism. Northern Iowa is a very good basketball team with a spectacular leader in senior Seth Tuttle. But Louisville’s athleticism and length were definitely something the Panthers hadn’t seen a whole lot of. It had a massive effect on that fast break attempt mentioned above and it was a factor throughout the game. The Panthers think they’ve got an open look at a three? Not so fast, as a long and athletic player in white comes swooping in to challenge the attempt. The final numbers show just four Louisville blocked shots for the game, but clean looks were hard to come by for the Panthers. In the first half, the Cards’ defensive pressure forced Northern Iowa into eight turnovers (they average 10.8 turnovers per game) in large part because that athleticism bothered them. The Panthers adjusted and got used to it in the second half, but by then much of the damage was done.
  3. Three-Point Shooting. Louisville came into the game shooting 30.5 percent from three on the season, good for 312th in the nation. Northern Iowa’s defensive strategy all year long has been to take away something that its opponent does really well and give up the things it doesn’t do that well. The goal tonight was to pack it in and encourage the Cardinals to shoot a bunch of those threes that they’ve struggled with all year. But when the Cards started the game 5-of-8 from three, it appeared like that decision was backfiring. The Cards cooled down, missing their final three attempts from behind the arc, but still wound up shooting 45.5 percent from three for the game. On the other end, Northern Iowa came in shooting 40 percent from three, good for 10th in the nation. Tonight? Just 6-of-19, or 31.5 percent. This kind of noise in a single-elimination setting is hard to make up for.

Star of the GameTerry Rozier. On a team without a bunch of guys who can create their own offense, Louisville puts a lot of pressure on Rozier to score. Against a far less athletic team that those typically found int the ACC, Rozier was mostly unstoppable. He notched 25 points for the game and his early offensive explosion caused the Panthers’ defense to divert another defender to stymie his penetration. He used that newfound attention to dish to his open teammates, leading to seven assists, the second-highest single-game total of his career.

Sights & Sounds. Neutral Fans Turn UNI Backers. It took a while for the majority of the Gonzaga fans in Key Arena to get into this game as Northern Iowa continually lurked just out of reach. But when the Panthers cut it to six points briefly around the four-minute mark, anyone in the arena without a cat in the fight jumped on board the bandwagon. That moment disappeared quickly, though, as the big four-point swing effectively killed UNI’s chance at the upset. And here’s the video of that four-point swing.

Wildcard. Montrezl Harrell. In the first 35 minutes of tonight’s game (0f which Harrell played about 32), the NBA prospect – taller than all but one player on Northern Iowa’s team – had exactly two rebounds. The Panthers had definitely game-planned for the junior and there weren’t a ton of opportunities for him, but for a player of his caliber on a team without a ton of playmakers, he’s got to have a bigger impact. He made some nice plays down the stretch but he also needs to force his way into the action at times. That said, Harrell’s defensive work on Seth Tuttle, limiting him to seven field goal attempts on the entire evening, was impressive.

Quotable. Northern Iowa head coach Ben Jacobson on the legacy of this team. “The only way to raise the bar as these guys did is to have somebody do something really good before them. And we did that in 2010. And they had to have somebody else do it before them, right? And we could keep going back. That’s how you do it, that’s how you get to new heights. So everybody that’s been around our program and all the kids we’re recruiting right now, they just saw the best entire season. We didn’t get to the Sweet Sixteen, so that’s the one thing (from 2010) that we didn’t match. But they just saw the best four months of basketball that our program ever had, and that’s saying a lot. So these guys? Man, I love them.”

What’s Next?  Louisville advances to the Sweet Sixteen for the fourth consecutive year where the Cards will face North Carolina State. In a region that blew up over the first weekend, the Cardinals have to like their chances to advance to a third Final Four since 2012 as well. As for Northern Iowa, a 31-4 season, a Missouri Valley regular season title, an MVC Tourney title and an NCAA victory are all fine accomplishments — but falling short of the Sweet Sixteen is disappointing for the five seniors wrapping up their collegiate careers.

AMurawa (999 Posts)

Andrew Murawa Likes Basketball.

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