LOUISVILLE, Ky. (CBSLA.com/AP) — Fifth-ranked Louisville had nowhere to go but up after a lackluster offensive effort against top-ranked Kentucky.
The Cardinals bounced back with 30 solid minutes before a falloff down the stretch against Long Beach State.READ MORE: Chargers Running back Austin Ekeler Gives Back To The Community
Sophomore guard Terry Rozier led the way with 23 points while Montrezl Harrell added 16 as Louisville beat the 49ers 63-48 on Tuesday.
Putting away the 49ers took some effort for the Cardinals (12-1), whose 22-point lead with 14:34 remaining was cut to nine with 2:44 left. But Harrell closed the game with a jumper, a dunk and a layup as Louisville rebounded from Saturday’s loss to top-ranked Kentucky.
That’s where the earlier cushion came in handy.
“For 30 minutes, that is the best basketball we have played all year,” said Louisville coach Rick Pitino, who started freshmen Anas Mahmoud and Shaqquan Aaron in an attempt to shake things up. “Then for a period in the second half, we hunted shots and didn’t pass it as well and we didn’t look as good. But for 30 to 32 minutes of basketball, that is the best we’ve looked all year.”
Rozier led the way with 7-of-14 shooting, seven rebounds, six steals and three assists for the Cardinals, who shot 51 percent, forced 19 turnovers and made 12 assists. Louisville also made six of 15 3-pointers.
“This is one of those games where I had a lot of opportunities to score,” Rozier said. “I did what I could and I made shots. It’s not going to happen every night and it just seemed to fall tonight.”
Branford Jones scored 13 points for Long Beach State (5-10), which closed an 0-6 road trip with 36 percent shooting. The 49ers played the Cardinals even on the boards (28-28) but were cold in key stretches.
Wayne Blackshear had 12 points and seven rebounds for Louisville despite sickness.
Long Beach State leading scorer Mike Caffey added 11 points and David Samuels 10 for the 49ers, which fell to 0-9 on the road. Their six-game road stretch has included hard-fought losses to No. 17 St. John’s, No. 23 San Diego State and No. 9 Texas. They made things interesting at times against Louisville but couldn’t get close enough.
“I thought Louisville’s defense was something we couldn’t get comfortable with until it was too late,” 49ers coach Dan Monson said. “We finally started attacking and not turning it over and the deficit was too much.”READ MORE: Carlos Santana Cancels Several December Shows After Undergoing Unspecified Heart Procedure
With Sunday’s Atlantic Coast Conference opener at Wake Forest looming, Louisville needed a good tuneup and had plenty of room for improvement after shooting just 26 percent and recording one assist in Saturday’s 58-50 loss to the rival Wildcats.
Those failures resulted in a new-look lineup with 7-foot Egypt native Mahmoud in the middle and 6-7 Aaron in place of senior guard Chris Jones.
Mahmoud had the better game of the two with four points, three rebounds and two blocks, all of which established a needed inside presence against a Long Beach State team that was no pushover at the start. The game was tied at 17 before the 49ers went cold over the final 7 1/2 minutes of the first half. Louisville’s 17-2 run provided a 34-19 halftime lead that reached 45-23 early in the second half.
Long Beach State returns to Walter Pyramid to host Fresno Pacific on Saturday.
Pitino said he didn’t start Jones because of his poor shooting and obvious flop against Kentucky that was replayed numerous times on TV and online. The coach made his displeasure known to Jones, who said, “I finally saw it for myself. It’s something to move past and I’ve got to stop doing it.”
Jones had three rebounds in nine minutes off the bench against the 49ers.
Long Beach State: The 49ers matched the Cardinals in points in the paint (22) but was 5 of 20 from behind the arc.
Louisville: The Cardinals started at least two true freshmen for the first time since Dec. 27, 2008 against UAB.
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