Cat Barber went for 21 points and four assists and Trevor Lacey added 14 as N.C. State knocked off No. 9 Louisville in the Yum! Center, 74-65, to earn what is the biggest bubble win of the day.
The Wolfpack still have some work to do — they are just 15-11 overall and 6-7 in the ACC, after all — but at this point, they look an awful lot like an NCAA tournament team.
But what about Louisville?
All season long, we’ve heard about how the Cardinals needed scoring balance if they were going to be one of the ACC’s elite this season. They needed Wayne Blackshear and Chris Jones and the rest of the supporting cast to step up and make shots if they were actually going to have a chance to make a run in the NCAA tournament.
On Saturday, that happened. Blackshear and Jones combined to score 39 points, but the Cardinals still lost thanks to subpar performances from both Montrezl Harrell and Terry Rozier.
Rozier finished with just seven points, although he spent much of the afternoon in foul trouble and played just one possession in the final 10 minutes before fouling out. Harrell had seven points and 13 boards, but took just five shots from the floor. On a team with no offensive balance, surviving an off-night from both star players is just not possible.
At the end of the day, Louisville is a flawed team, and I’m not exactly breaking any news here. They have two shoot-first ball-handlers that can score but that don’t make their teammates better. They don’t have much support for those two beyond a big man with a limited back-to-the-basket game and a jumper that’s not quite as good as he wants it to be.
But here’s the thing: despite Harrell and Rozier struggling, this was a one possession game when Rozier picked up his fourth foul midway through the second half, and that was despite the fact that Barber was carving up Louisville’s press; the Wolfpack had just eight turnovers on the night.
Is this a bad loss for Louisville?
But if you look at everything that went wrong for the Cardinals, it really could have been much worse.