Better shot selection, distribution helps No. 10 Louisville take care of Pittsburgh

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Eight days ago No. 10 Louisville lost at home to No. 5 Duke, with their offensive struggles costing Rick Pitino’s team in the end. Duke’s move to a zone defense stole the headlines, but the issue as far as the Cardinals were concerned was the lack of consistent paint touches. Of Louisville’s 61 field goal attempts that afternoon 25 were three-pointers (they made four), and for a team that hasn’t shot the ball particularly well from the perimeter that was an issue that needed to be addressed.

“There are four ways to beat a zone,” Pitino said following that loss. “There is ball movement, player movement, and not until the second half did we get what really hurts the zone and that’s paint touches, drives into the paint. It creates offensive rebounds. It creates other good things.”

Getting quality touches in the paint wasn’t a problem for Louisville Sunday afternoon in Pittsburgh, as they beat the Panthers 80-68 to move to 16-3 overall and 4-2 in ACC play. The Cardinals shot 65.2% from the field, making 13 of their final 15 field goal attempts, and the three players expected to lead the way were efficient in doing so against the Panthers.

Terry Rozier accounted for 26 points (10-for-16 FG), six assists and five rebounds, with fellow guard Chris Jones adding 17 points (6-for-10 FG), nine assists and five rebounds and forward Montrezl Harrell 18 (8-for-12 FG) and seven boards. Add in 11 points and four rebounds off the bench from Mangok Mathiang (3-for-3 FG, 5-for-5 FT), and Louisville proved to be too much for Jamie Dixon’s Panthers on the offensive end of the floor.

As a team Louisville scored 40 points in the paint (plus-22 point margin there), and they attempted just 12 three-pointers. The Cardinals made six shots from beyond the arc, and when perimeter shots come as a product of attacking the defense those looks tend to be cleaner and fall at a higher rate.

Entering Sunday’s game just over 35 percent of Louisville’s field goal attempts were three-pointers, a percentage that is a bit high for a team shooting 29.4% on the season. The Cardinals didn’t settle as often against Pittsburgh, resulting in a far more productive offense. If Louisville can continue on this path moving forward, they become a tougher team to beat.