After Russ Smith knocked down a shot with 18:42 remaining in the first half to open the scoring in No. 3 Louisville’s game against Fairfield, the Cardinals went more than six minutes without a point. Rick Pitino’s team didn’t look all that sharp, and to be fair Fairfield’s made a habit of turning the majority of their games into slugfests that would not be described as works of art.
But as the game progressed Louisville was able to gain separation, closing the first half on a 28-12 run and putting the Stags away by the final score of 71-57. Chris Jones led four Cardinals in double figures with 15 points and Montrezl Harrell posted his second double-double of the season (14 points, 13 rebounds), helping the Cardinals win by a comfortable margin despite shooting 37.7% from the field and 2-for-14 from beyond the arc.
Louisville wasn’t at their best but they forced 19 turnovers and used put their superior size to good use in rebounding nearly 43% of their missed shots on the afternoon. The Cardinals didn’t shoot particularly well and they finished with twice as many turnovers (14) as assists (seven), something that cannot happen against North Carolina on Sunday afternoon.
But how much should we read into a performance like this? Entering Saturday’s contest Fairfield had not allowed more than 63 points in a game this season, and they allow less than a point per possession (0.98). Louisville didn’t execute all that well against Fairfield, averaging a point per possession on the afternoon and turning the ball over on nearly 20% of their possessions, but because of their work defensively and on the glass the offensive issues didn’t get them in trouble.
A lot more will be learned about Louisville on Sunday, even with North Carolina still playing without two of its best players in P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald. And with the talent at Rick Pitino’s disposal, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Cardinals put together a much better performance against the Tar Heels than they did today.