BOSTON — Louisville’s big-time guards came up big at the right time for the 10th-ranked Cardinals on Wednesday night.
Chris Jones and Terry Rozier combined for 51 points, including 34 in the second half, as the Cardinals held off a late charge by Boston College and scored an 81-72 Atlantic Coast Conference victory over the Eagles.
“They’ve had good years all season but I think since conference play, they’ve been spectacular, in a class by themselves,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. “Every bucket you need, where they come back in the game, they come back and make a layup, make a three. Tremendous tandem.”
Jones scored a career-high 28 points, Rozier, who came in averaging 20.7 points per game over the last 12, had 23.
“It’s funny, at the beginning of the year, it was our defense and not much from our offense,” said Rozier. “Lately it’s been our offense. If we can pack it all in and get the offense and defense going we’d be a scary team.”
Jones and Rozier combined to play 75 of the 80 minutes in the game. They were 19 of 28 from the floor, 5 of 7 from 3-point range and totaled one turnover between them. Most importantly, they made shots when their team needed them the most.
“I’ve never seen two guards play the amount of minutes they play, with the intensity with which they play for an entire game,” Boston College coach Jim Christian said. “It’s a special thing to watch.”
Louisville (17-3, 5-2 ACC) was 6 of 12 from 3-point range for the second straight game, both wins after the team went 4 of 25 from downtown in a loss to Duke.
The Cardinals, who had to fly in on the day of the game because of Tuesday’s blizzard on the East Coast and arrived some six hours before tip-off, never trailed. But that doesn’t mean this wasn’t a game.
BC (9-10, 1-6), was down by 10 with less than eight minutes left. The Eagles then got it to two, and guard Olivier Hanlan had a chance to tie it with two free throws.
He missed one and the lead was one with 5:13 left. Jones then hit back-to-back 3-pointers and BC was all but done.
“That’s about confidence at that point,” said Jones. “Terry made a couple of great plays to find me and I just knocked them down.”
The win came in the latest return to the Boston area by Pitino, who coached and was president of the Boston Celtics and coached at Boston University in town and Providence right down the road.
This marked the first time for him coaching in Boston since he left the Celtics in 2001. The return was made sweeter by his guards.
Pitino recruited Christian, who is in his first year at BC, for Boston University and lauded his opponent after the game. He talked about the difficulties in preparing for the BC offense, which got a career-high 28 points from senior guard Aaron Brown but got a poor shooting night from guard Olivier Hanlan.
Hanlan, coming off a 25-point game in Sunday’s win at Georgia Tech, suffered through a 4 of 13 (2 of 8 from behind the arc) shooting game and also fouled out, mostly courtesy of Rozier. Hanlan did match his career high with nine assists.
BC big man Dennis Clifford, who missed Sunday’s game with an illness, was back but played only nine minutes still getting over his sickness.
Guard Patrick Heckmann scored 11 of his 14 points late and was a main factor in the Eagles’ comeback.
Forward Montezl Harrell added 12 points and five rebounds for the Cards.
NOTES: Louisville coach Rick Pitino made it clear that he “loves Pete Carroll” but is rooting for the New England Patriots in Sunday’s Super Bowl. He said he stays in touch with Patriots coach Bill Belichick via texts. … Louisville G Terry Rozier came in averaging 24.2 points per game in six road/neutral games this season and scored 23. … The schools met for the first time since 1996. Louisville leveled the series at 3-3. … The Cardinals host No. 13 North Carolina on Saturday, while Boston College plays at Clemson the same day.
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