Montrezl Harrell played arguably his best game in a Louisville jersey on Saturday, taking over for long stretches of the second half and finishing with 25 points, 12 boards and three steals while shooting 11-for-17 from the floor.
Russ Smith was just as dominant in the first half, scoring 14 of his 19 points and finishing with five assists, five boards and three steals.
Luke Hancock didn’t play his best game of the season, but he did finish with 11 points and three assists.
The rest of the Louisville roster? 11 points, 3-for-19 from the floor.
And therein lies the issue for Louisville. They cannot be a three-man team and expect to be elite.
Here’s the kicker: Louisville still should have won on Saturday at No. 21 Memphis. They lost 72-66 after giving up a 15-1 run in the final three minutes. That’s how close Rick Pitino’s club came to knocking off a top 25 team on the road despite getting nothing out of their role players.
And this loss will hurt.
Louisville had a chance to take over first place in the American with Cincinnati’s loss at UConn earlier today.
The Cards have been one of the most improved teams in the country during the season, but much of that improvement came as Louisville was beating up on some of the lesser teams in the league. Their last two games in the regular season are at SMU and against UConn at home. Louisville had Memphis all-but beat on Saturday, but we’ll get a real feel for just how good this team is in their next two games.
What was the fluke? Taking control on the road despite having just three guys play well, or blowing a late lead to a top 25 team on the road?
Expected to be one of the favorites in the Mountain West this season, Boise State’s perimeter ranks have shrunk by one player due to injury. Thursday it was reported by the Idaho Statesman that freshman guard Malek Harwell will redshirt after suffering a torn ACL in practice. Along with fellow freshman Paris Austin, Harwell is expected to be a key part of the Broncos’ future beyond the upcoming season.
Now, instead of competing with an experienced backcourt that includes four redshirt seniors, Harwell will work to get his knee back to full strength for the 2016-17 season.
Among the guards who will play significant minutes this season are Anthony Drmic, who took a medical redshirt last season, Montigo Alford, Mikey Thompson and grad transfer Lonnie Jackson (Boston College). Chandler Hutchison, who started in Boise State’s final 18 games of the 2014-15 season as a freshman, will also compete for playing time.
Illinois will be shorthanded in its front court for the time being, as during the team’s media day Thursday head coach John Groce announced that sophomore forward Leron Black is out due to injury.
Black will undergo surgery Friday to repair a meniscus tear in his knee, and he’s expected to miss anywhere from four to six weeks. A return after four weeks would have Black back on the court just before the Fighting Illini open their season November 13 against North Florida. Any longer and the Memphis native would wind up missing some game action.
Black averaged 5.0 points and 4.3 rebounds in just under 15 minutes of action per game as a freshman. He’s one of the players expected to contribute in the front court for the Fighting Illini, who lost their best interior defender and second-leading rebounder in Nnanna Egwu at the end of last season (guard Rayvonte Rice, who led the team in rebounding, is also gone).
In addition to Black and junior Maverick Morgan, Illinois adds redshirt freshman Michael Finke and grad student Mike Thorne Jr. (via Charlotte) to their front court rotation.