Top seed Louisville routs North Carolina A&T
by USA TODAY Sports, USA TODAY
LEXINGTON, KY. — Throughout the last part of the season, University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino talked about the possibility of a No. 16 seed finally upsetting a No. 1 in the NCAA Tournament.
Clearly, he was talking about the other No. 1 seeds.
The Cardinals, the No. 1 overall seed, left no doubt about their readiness and their focus in rolling past North Carolina A&T 79-48 on Thursday in Rupp Arena.
“We don’t underestimate no opponent we play, take every film (session) seriously as if we were playing Duke,” sophomore forward Chane Behanan said. “They play basketball just like we do. Everybody can lose.”
Earlier in the day, Gonzaga, the No. 1 seed in the West Regional, struggled to get past Southern. U of L’s Big East counterpart Pittsburgh was ousted by Wichita State, and Marquette needed a late basket to stave off elimination from Davidson.
The Cards’ defense kept them from being on upset alert. They collected a season-high 20 steals, breaking the NCAA Tournament record of 19 shared by three teams, including Pitino’s 1987 Providence squad.
A&T coach Cy Alexander figured his Aggies might have been able to recover if it were just the Cards starters that were effective in trapping. But when the reserves came in, the pressure didn’t drop off.
“They’re quick and they’re big and they have, you know, exceptional quickness, and they’re strong and they come at you in waves and they don’t let up,” Alexander said. “One is coming and there’s another set coming.”
The Cards tied a season high by forcing the Aggies into 27 turnovers. And in an unofficial stat that Pitino’s staff keeps, they set an all-time program high with 67 deflections.
Russ Smith and Peyton Siva alone accounted for 32 deflections, which Pitino said he’d never seen from his backcourts before.
“We did a great job of making the right rotation and getting in the right places, for the most part,” Siva said. “They had some open looks and easy buckets, so we have to make sure we fix those mistakes because when we play good defense it leads to our offense.”
Siva wasn’t the only one who … [For more on Top seed Louisville rolls to rout of North Carolina A&T, click here.]