Looking at the gaudy 92-31 final score, it doesn't seem possible that decidedly unranked Rutgers led No. 5 Louisville 8-7 early in the game. Rutgers held the lead for all of one possession before Louisville blew their doors off in the American Athletic Conference quarterfinals Thursday.
The game turned into an absolute rout, and Louisville coach Rick Pitino could see it coming. He said he knew it was going to be a long day for the Scarlet Knights when Russ Smith threw a no-look alley-oop that was dunked by not one, but two Louisville players.
"I knew it was going to be a good night when we went to throw a lob to Stephan and Montrezl dunked on Stephan," Pitino said. "I knew it was our night at that point."
Van Treese didn't like being dunked on by his teammate.
"I'm not happy about that," Van Treese said. "I thought he was throwin' it to me, and I didn't even see Montrezl and he dunked on me. I was like, 'Man, that's not fair!'"
At that point Louisville's lead was just 4-0. Rutgers would briefly take the lead at 8-7, but Louisville scored 20 of the next 23 points to break the game open. The Cardinals had three runs of 11-0 or more during the first half as Rutgers completely wilted under the Cardinals' pressure.
"Well with, I'm not sure what to say," Pitino said. "It was one of those nights where everything went really well for us and nothing went right for them."
Pitino said a game like this can be valuable in a tournament setting.
"We got a chance to play everybody and rest our legs," he said. "Anytime you play in a tournament where there is a potential for three games in a row, the more you can play your bench the better you will be."
Louisville ended up playing 11 players, 10 of which played 10 or more minutes. Pitino was particularly pleased with the effort of Chris Jones, who poured in 18 points with six steals and five rebounds in 28 minutes. He also liked the tenacity of Stephan Van Treese who was scoreless, but had 10 rebounds and four steals in 31 minutes.
"These two guys played a terrific basketball game," Pitino said. "Stephan has been rebounding the ball and playing great defense and Chris Jones the last two weeks has been the best I've seen him. Very proud of both of these guys."
Louisville forced 26 Rutgers turnovers, mainly using a trapping defense. The Cardinals backed off the pressure defense for much of the second half though.
"It was one of those games in the second half we wanted to pack in our zone and they held their own, forcing 26 turnovers, turned them over in the half court which is a little surprising, but it's just one of those nights where one team, nothing goes right, the other, everything goes right," Pitino said.
In addition to Jones' 18 points, Russ Smith had 16 points and five assists, Terry Rozier had 14 points and Luke Hancock and Montrezl Harrell had 13 a piece. Rutgers scored only 16 points as a team in the first half and 15 in the second.
Pitino said he ended the game feeling bad for Rutgers coach Eddie Jordan.
"Like I said, certain opponents are a little stronger and deeper and quicker and we are and everything went well for us and nothing went right for them," Pitino said. "He's seen it in the pro's and it's the time where you go right to the bar, forget the game, have a drink and get ready for next year."