CINCINNATI – Louisville coach Rick Pitino half-jokingly was quoted last month as saying the Cardinals were “Reece Gaines and five guys named Harry.”
Not against TCU.
Bryant Northern scored a career-high 25 points and was one of five Cardinals in double digits as Louisville blew past the Horned Frogs 110-86 in the first round of the Conference USA Tournament Wednesday.
“Bryant Northern has made so many leaps and bounds, it’s a true pleasure to sit back and watch,” Pitino said. “It’s like being a proud father to see Bryant Northern develop into a true point guard.”
Northern, who set his previous career-best with 21 points in a 96-77 win against South Florida at Freedom Hall Feb. 1, unleashed a three-point barrage on the Horned Frogs, going 6-of-7 from beyond the arc.
“Honestly, sometimes you feel like (you can’t miss) when you’re in a rhythm, but you’re just in the right place at the right time and people get you the ball,” Northern said. “I’ve shot the ball all year with confidence. That’s one thing you can’t do is be scared to shoot the ball.”
Gaines, the only Cardinal averaging double digits (20.5 points per game), was spectacular as usual, scoring 30, including 20 in the first half.
“The defense he plays, the hustle he gives you (and) the fact that we run so many sets for him (makes) what he does truly remarkable.
Louisville, bolstered by a pro-Cardinal crowd, shot 51 percent from the floor and 50 percent from behind the arc, shattering their season-high (97 against DePaul) for points.
The Cardinals gained control midway through the first half, fueled by their full-court press (12 turnovers) and pinpoint three-point shooting (7-of-14).
Louisville went on a 7-0 run, capped by a pair of Joseph N’Sima free throws to take a 31-23 lead.
The Cardinals drained four consecutive treys during a 14-3 run with just under five minutes remaining in the first half and took a 56-43 lead into the locker room.
Then came the Bryant Northern Show.
Northern came out of the break gunning, reeling off 13 consecutive Cardinals’ points to open up a 69-47 lead TCU could not recover from.
Louisville plays second-seeded Marquette today at 1 p.m.
- Brandon Wright