January 27, 2015

Much of what has made Louisville successful has come on the defensive end, but it's found against top competition that its offensive shortcomings have been insurmountable.

The 10th-ranked Cardinals showed signs of sprouting some offensive legs in their latest game, and further harnessing it Wednesday night at Boston College could do them some good leading into their next major ACC clash.

Sunday's 80-68 win at Pittsburgh featured a season-high 65.2 percent shooting from the Cardinals (16-3, 4-2), who connected on 34.3 percent in losses to ranked squads Kentucky, North Carolina and Duke. The effort more than doubled their 29.5 percent mark from a 63-52 home loss to Duke in their previous game Jan. 17.

"We usually win with defense and tonight we won with offense," said coach Rick Pitino, who has a rematch against North Carolina looming Saturday after falling 72-71 in Chapel Hill on Jan. 10. "Our offense was special and great shooting percentages are the result of great passing and we did a terrific job passing against a good defensive team."

Top scorer Terry Rozier (17.8 points per game) was the main beneficiary with 26 points and is averaging 24.2 in six games away from Louisville, but it's probably Montrezl Harrell who hinted at the more substantial improvement.

Harrell, second on the team with an average of 15.1 points, scored 18 on 8-of-12 shooting after managing 9.0 points on 43.8 percent in his previous four games. Among the Cardinals' starters, Harrell's dip to 9.3 points in losses is the most drastic. Pitino said much of the improvement had to do with Harrell finally staying within himself against Louisville's new league.

"In the beginning (of conference play) he was trying to be Kevin Durant instead of Montrezl Harrell," Pitino said.

On the team level, it was also the Cardinals' top 3-point shooting game at 50.0 percent (6 of 12). In ACC play, they've shown slight improvement from beyond the arc at 32.0 percent after shooting 29.2 in 13 nonconference games.

Chris Jones was at the center of that with a 3-for-4 mark against Pittsburgh. The senior guard had 17 points after a couple of down games, but his season has turned around in league play with 15.3 points on 46.4 percent from the field after entering with an average of 11.4 points and 30.8 percent shooting.

The win bumped the Cardinals' record to 15-0 against unranked opponents and ran their unbeaten streak in the regular season against such foes to 45 with an average winning margin of 22.5 points.

Boston College (9-9, 1-5) has lost both matchups with ranked opponents - Duke and Virginia - by an average of 19.0 points. The Eagles have dropped 22 of 24 against the Top 25 and 13 of 14 against the top 10.

They are, however, coming off their first conference win, 64-62 at Georgia Tech on Sunday. Olivier Hanlan scored a season-high 25 points.

"It was big-time," said Hanlan, the team leader with 16.8 points per game. "We had a lot of close ones down the stretch. ... Obviously, getting the first one is great. We just have to build on it."

That might sound simple, but Boston College hasn't won consecutive conference games since stringing three together March 3-9, 2013. The Eagles are 5-19 in the league since.

Boston College leads the all-time series 3-2, but the teams haven't met since 1996. Their time in the Big East missed overlapping by a season.

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