Wayne Blackshear

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Louisville dismisses senior guard from program

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One day after senior guard Chris Jones returned to the rotation in No. 12 Louisville’s win over Miami, the program announced that he has been dismissed from the program.

Jones, who came off the bench Saturday, started 24 of the 26 games he played in and led the Cardinals in assists (3.6 apg) and steals (2.0 spg). Jones also averaged 13.7 points per game, which was third on the team behind sophomore guard Terry Rozier and junior forward Montrezl Harrell.

In each of the last two games Louisville has started freshman Quentin Snider in place of Jones, and the freshman performed well in the Cardinals’ loss at Syracuse. Snider played 38 minutes in that game, accounting for 13 points, four assists and three rebounds. However he was unable to build on that performance Saturday, as he played just five minutes and failed to register a point, rebound or assist.

Without Jones more will be asked of both Snider and senior Wayne Blackshear, who continues to have issues from a consistency standpoint. Blackshear scored ten points on Saturday, and he scored 19 in a loss to NC State, but he also went scoreless in the loss at Syracuse. In a home win over Pittsburgh, Blackshear aggravated a hip pointer that has been an issue for him recently.

The other question is how Louisville accounts for the loss of Jones on the defensive end. With Jones suspended for the loss at Syracuse the Cardinals did not use their full court pressure all that often, and that impacted their aggressiveness in the half court as well. This could be the biggest concern for the Cardinals moving forward, as they look to make a run deep into March.

No. 12 Louisville struggled on both ends in Wednesday’s loss at Syracuse

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After winning seven of their first nine ACC games, No. 12 Louisville has hit a rough patch in its season. One day after it was announced that starting guard Chris Jones was suspended indefinitely by head coach Rick Pitino, the Cardinals lost 69-59 at Syracuse Wednesday night and there were problems on both ends of the floor.

As a team Louisville shot 42.6% from the field and 6-for-20 from beyond the arc, with Terry Rozier needing 18 shots to score a team-high 17 points. In total three Cardinals scored in double figures, with Montrezl Harrell adding 15 and freshman Quentin Snider 13. But that wasn’t enough, as Wayne Blackshear went scoreless and the bench was able to produce just six points with four coming from Anas Mahmoud.

With that offensive production more was needed on the defensive end of the floor, and the effort just wasn’t there. Without Jones, the guard who sets the tone for them defensively, the Cardinals had to dial things down pressure-wise and that led to Syracuse getting too much room to operate. Remove Trevor Cooney, who shot 1-for-10, and the other Syracuse players combined to shoot 21-for-37 (56.8%) from the field overall.

Also of note is the fact that Syracuse committed just seven turnovers, a number that’s far too low for a Pitino-coached team regardless of who’s out of the lineup. And according to Jeff Greer of the Louisville Courier-Journal, the lack of activity on the defensive end was a topic of conversation following the game.

They aren’t talking enough on defense. They aren’t working together enough on defense. Maybe it’s time for a team meeting.

“I’m going to talk to (Montrezl Harrell). I’m going to call a team meeting for us, just for the players,” Rozier said. “We have to figure out something we have to do to come together on defense … There’s too much individual (stuff) from the defensive standpoint. We’re not talking enough. We’re not going to win games if our defense is not together.”

How long Jones will be away from the team remains to be seen, but regardless of his status the Cardinals have some important issues to address. The problem? When it comes to both getting consistent production from Blackshear and creating more turnovers defensively, these are issues that Pitino’s had to deal with all season long. And solutions have yet to be found.

The good news for Louisville is that three of their final five games are at home, with the road games being at Georgia Tech and Florida State. But this doesn’t look like a confident basketball team right now, and that’s a concern as the season edges closer to March.

Perimeter shot selection will be key for Louisville moving forward

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One of the questions entering Saturday’s showdown between No. 1 Kentucky and No. 4 Louisville was whether or not the Cardinals would be able to snap out of the perimeter shooting funk that has been an issue for most of the season. As a team the Cardinals entered Saturday shooting 42.7% from the field and 28.6% from beyond the arc, numbers that won’t get the job done against the nation’s best teams.

That’s exactly how things played out Saturday afternoon, as the Cardinals fell to their in-state rivals by the final score of 58-50 and shot poorly in doing so. Rick Pitino’s team made just 25.9% of its shots from the field, shooting 4-for-21 from three and assisting on just one of their 15 made field goals. And while Kentucky’s play on the defensive end of the floor certainly had a lot to do with those numbers, something also needs to be said of the shot selection of Louisville’s guards.

Chris Jones and Terry Rozier combined to score 28 points but did so shooting 8-for-33 from the field, with Jones responsible for the tandem’s lone assist. Add in Wayne Blackshear’s 2-for-9 afternoon and Louisville’s three perimeter players shot 10-for-42, a level of accuracy that won’t get the job done against many of the nation’s best teams much less one some have already pegged as a realistic candidate to run the table without a single defeat.

Bad shots were seemingly the norm for Louisville on Saturday, and as noted above credit does need to be given to Kentucky for this. The Wildcats have length and athleticism, and in freshman Tyler Ulis they have a 5-foot-9 point guard who can be a flat-out pest defensively.

But there were also multiple occasions in which a Louisville guard settled for a challenged look instead of working the ball around for a higher-quality look, with forward Montrezl Harrell (nine points, eight rebounds) not getting enough opportunities with his man sealed in the post. Harrell attempted nine shots, making four, which isn’t stunning when considering the fact that he entered the game fourth on the team in field goal attempts and averaged 10.5 attempts per game in the ten games he played.

Yet even with that being the case, and Kentucky’s interior length serving as a deterrent in the post, shouldn’t Harrell get more opportunities in the paint? One sequence that summed things up occurred with 4:15 remaining and the Cardinals trailing 50-38. Jones fired up a contested three-pointer, with Pitino calling timeout after Harrell managed to corral the offensive rebound, and it’s safe to say that the all-america candidate was frustrated in the Louisville huddle.

For Rozier, Saturday’s performance was an exception for him this season as he entered the game shooting nearly 48 percent from the field and 34 percent from three. But with Jones and Blackshear having their issues, especially from three with the former now shooting 29.8% and the latter 28.8%, they can afford to pass up some of those perimeter looks in exchange for shots of higher quality.

Against a team the caliber of Kentucky finding those shots can be difficult, but Louisville has to be more disciplined offensively than they were Saturday. That will determine just how good of a season the Cardinals manage to put together.