UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- North Carolina started the day by fulfilling its side of the bargain at the Hall of Fame Tip-Off, holding off feisty Richmond to set up the first half of the marquee matchup in the title game. After that, it was up to Louisville to take care of Fairfield. Well, that wasn’t a problem, with the Cardinals coasting to a 71-57 victory at Mohegan Sun.
Five things that jumped out during Louisville’s win:
It’s a win, but … Sure, Louisville was never threatened. It was a rout and was over after the first 20 minutes. But that doesn’t mean Louisville liked what it saw.
“We played our poorest game of the season,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. “We didn’t play well in any phase of the game. We just didn’t do the things we were capable of doing.
“We’ve played four good games, and tonight we were flat in every phase of the game. … I’d be lying if I said I was happy with anything. It was a poor performance by us.”
Always be on guard: Louisville’s first-half effort on offense wasn’t going to win any style awards. The Cardinals shot 38.5 percent from the field, and guard Russ Smith had more turnovers (2) than field goals (1). Yet the Cardinals coasted into the half with a double-digit lead. They can thank a steady defense for that.
Fairfield shot 29.2 percent from the floor and was harassed into 12 turnovers. Not much changed in the second half, as the Stags struggled against the Cardinals’ pressure and Louisville eventually built a lead that grew to 23 at one point. No, Pitino didn’t love his team’s performance on defense either, but it was good enough against Fairfield.
Watching the paint: Montrezl Harrell had his way against Fairfield’s front line. Harrell went for 14 points and 13 rebounds in 25 minutes against the Stags. With James Michael McAdoo and Brice Johnson roaming the paint, the task for Harrell will be different against North Carolina.
“Their size is going to give us a little trouble,” Pitino said.
Not so Russ-diculous: Russ Smith had a nondescript afternoon, going 3-for-9 from the floor on his way to 10 points and six rebounds. Against overmatched Fairfield, a quiet afternoon didn’t matter all that much. But here comes North Carolina and Marcus Paige, who went for 26 points against Richmond in Saturday’s earlier semifinal.
Get what you want: Now it’s on to the marquee matchup with North Carolina. Was Louisville, like most everyone else, looking ahead to the tilt with the Tar Heels?
“The everyday skeptic will say we were looking ahead,” Pitino said.
And if the Cardinals play the same way against North Carolina that they did against Fairfield?
“We bring this game and it won’t even be close,” Pitino said. “… I don’t expect us to have two bad games in a row.”