TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) – While the focus is often on what a team does in March, Louisville has a habit of closing strong in February.
The Cardinals have won 16 of their last 19 February games, and No. 17 Louisville turned in one of its best offensive and defensive performances this season in an 81-59 win over Florida State on Saturday.
”It was a terrific win for us,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. ”This is probably the best team performance of the season.”
Wayne Blackshear scored 18 points, Montrezl Harrell added 16 points and Anton Gill made all five of his shots from the floor to finish with 14 to help Louisville (23-6, 11-5 ACC) close February with its third straight win.
Louisville shot 31 of 64 (48.4 percent) from the floor as the Cardinals surpassed the 70-point mark for the first time in eight February games.
Montay Brandon scored 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting and Boris Bojanovsky added 11 points and nine rebounds for FSU (15-15, 7-10 ACC). But the Seminoles had 21 turnovers, including 13 in the first half, partly because of the full-court pressure from Louisville.
”We lost to a team that created a lot of havoc for us,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. ”We turned the ball over 21 times. They scored 32 points off turnovers.”
Three days after he scored 30 points in the final 4:38 of a loss at Miami, FSU’s Xavier Rathan-Mayes had two points in the first half and finished 5 of 16 for 12 points.
”We wanted to take his legs out as much as we could, pressure him as much as we could,” Pitino said. ”We wanted to trap him. . We were going to make sure that we weren’t going to rely on him missing – we were going to play him really hard.”
Louisville led 36-26 at the half and by as many as 26 points, 64-38, after a 3-pointer by Gill with 10:06 left in the game. The Seminoles, who were playing their third game in seven days, shot 19 of 48 (39.6 percent) from the floor.
FSU never could get in gear in the first half, missing its first nine shots until Bojanovsky made a basket in the lane at the 12:22 mark.
Louisville’s defense led to 10 steals, including six by Terry Rozier.
WE MEET AGAIN
Louisville and FSU haven’t played in men’s basketball since the Metro Conference tournament championship game on March 9, 1991. The Seminoles rallied from a 20-point deficit to win the title 76-69.
Louisville: The Cardinals have shot 47 percent or better from the field in 13 games this season.
Louisville: The Cardinals play host to Notre Dame on Wednesday.