Jones, No. 9 Louisville beat So. Mississippi 69-38
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP)
Any jitters Terry Rozier had in his first career start weren't apparent as he quickly made two 3-pointers that helped set an offensive tone for Louisville.
Chris Jones followed Rozier's lead by sinking a few more from long range while contributing to the kind of defensive performance coach Rick Pitino wanted.
Nothing like a shakeup to make things happen.
Jones came off the bench to score 18 points, including four 3-pointers, and the No. 9 Cardinals bounced back from their first loss to roll past Southern Mississippi 69-38 Friday night.
Five days after a lackluster effort in a 93-84 loss to North Carolina, the Cardinals (6-1) were better on both ends with the help of two new starters. Freshman guard Rozier got things going offensively by making his first three from beyond the arc en route to nine points, while 6-foot-10 redshirt freshman center Mangok Mathiang had seven rebounds and three blocks.
''For a freshman to get a start, it builds my confidence up,'' said Rozier, who added three assists in 19 minutes.
Added Jones, ''I'm happy for him. He deserved it.''
Jones made 4 of 7 from long range and 5 of 10 overall. Louisville shot 23 of 55 (42 percent) and matched a season high with 12 3-pointers on 31 attempts.
The Cardinals' trademark pressure defense forced 22 turnovers and stifled the Golden Eagles (6-1) at the start of both halves, holding them scoreless for more than 12 combined minutes. USM's total points set a season low for a Louisville opponent.
''That was a tail whipping,'' USM coach Donnie Tyndall said. ''Their team was obviously better coached and more prepared than our team. I say that sincerely and I mean it.''
Louisville senior guard Russ Smith scored his 11 points in the second half. Forward Montrezl Harrell also scored 11 with nine rebounds.
Louisville outrebounded Southern Mississippi 38-33, scored 21 points off turnovers and made 16 assists.
Michael Craig's nine points led the Golden Eagles, who shot 13 of 45 from the field (29 percent).
The Cardinals had nowhere to go but up after losing to the Tar Heels in a game marked by bad shots against the zone and frequent defensive breakdowns. A hard week of practice followed and Pitino changed his starting lineup, inserting Rozier into Jones' starting spot with Mathiang supplanting Stephan Van Treese in the middle.
''I don't really don't care who starts but I was doing it because I wanted to get Terry some confidence,'' Pitino said. ''He wasn't playing the way the Terry Rozier I've seen in practice. I just wanted to get him some early minutes and getting him feeling good about himself. It was nothing anybody did wrong.''
It took just 21 seconds for the moves to start paying off as Rozier buried the first of back-to-back 3-pointers followed by Mathiang's jumper off the glass as Louisville scored the first 13 points over 5:02. Though 5-of-9 shooting helped, improved ball movement against the Golden Eagles' zone set up those chances as the patient Cardinals worked it around, inside and out in recording 12 assists, more than they had in both of the past two games.
Though the Cardinals' good shooting cooled off to 12 of 29 (41 percent) by halftime as Louisville attempted 17 from beyond the arc, the opportunities were there and Jones came off the bench to sink of 2 of 3. Left out of the early fun were Smith - who had 36 points in Sunday's loss - and Hancock, whose combined 0-for-8 start from long range left them scoreless at the break.
Hancock finished with five points while Smith hit 5 of 8 from the field.
''It was one of those games where the defense decides whether or not I'm going to score,'' Smith said. ''They didn't want me to score and I wasn't going to take any bad shots.''
More impressive was Louisville's defensive energy that Pitino compared to last year's championship team. The Cardinals held Southern Mississippi scoreless for the first 5:30 of the game and the initial 6:54 of the second half, paving the way for the kind of performance Pitino hopes will become a habit.
''We want to play how we did last season,'' the coach said. ''Last year we played about 70 percent man(-to-man), and that is what we did tonight. It confuses people and gets them out of rhythm.
''I want to continue that.''