1. Much improved effort and defense: The Cardinals responded from a loss to North Carolina with a solid effort and an improved defensive performance. U of L coach Rick Pitino said he was pleased at how they responded and it was much, much better. A major change was that Pitino used some of that 2-3 zone that was used so much during the championship run. He said he will continue to do it the rest of the season and maybe that's what this team needed, a little jolt. They took the loss, improved the play and played a little zone. I loved the look.
2. Terry Rozier and a smile: Freshman guard Terry Rozier was not relaxed, didn't look like he was having fun and honestly just looked stressed. A lot of freshmen are that way. So, Pitino inserted him into the starting lineup, helped boost his confidence and he hit two three-pointers to start the game. Rozier is going to be a special player and last night for the first time he looked comfortable on the floor.
3. The Mangok project: I posted a story last night talking about Mangok Mathiang and how Pitino said he was going to go with the freshman and live with the mistakes. It's the right idea. Stephan Van Treese will still give the Cardinals some quality minutes this season but he's never been more than a role player. Mathiang has a bright future and will be a Gorgui Dieng-type player down the road. Now, there might be some things in the coming months that make you shake your head, but he's getting there.
4. Luke's struggles: Luke Hancock is struggling with his shooting. It's a lot like last season and starting off slow. Hancock is now 2 of 11 in his last two games but don't fret. It will come around. I spoke with Hancock at length after the game and he said he feels great with the achilles injury. It's just a matter of shots falling. He's not something to worry about.
5. A few leftovers: It was the first time U of L started two freshmen (Rozier and Mathiang) in the starting lineup since Dec. 27, 2008 (Samardo Samuels, Jared Swopshire). . . . Russ Smith moved into 26th places in career scoring at U of L with 1,367 points. . . . The 13 points in the first half were tied for the fourth lowest scored in one half since 1972-73. . . . U of L is now 55-7 overall in the Yum Center.