With the madness of March just days away, the 17th-ranked University of Louisville was a team in need of some. Prior to the off the court turbulence of the past week, the Cardinals were struggling to find offensive consistency and lacked any real bench support.
On Saturday afternoon, head coach Rick Pitino saw his team perform better than it has in weeks, possibly all season long. Five players scored in double figures, the first such occasion since the Cardinals blew out FIU on December 5 and the team eclipsed the 70 point barrier for the first time since defeating North Carolina in overtime on January 31.
“It was a terrific win for us,” Pitino said following the 81-59 win over the Seminoles. “This is probably the best team performance of the season.”
The senior led the team with 18 points, while also totaling four rebounds, four assists, two blocks and a steal. He was effective attacking the basket and finding his shot from deep. Most importantly, he was consistent and became more clutch as the game continued, connecting on 5 of 6 shots, including 2 of 3 beyond the three-point arc, during the second half.
“All we emphasize with him is I want 60 percent of your offense to drive — paint touch,” Pitino said. “We know you can shoot. Paint touch. And he's been doing a great job of that. What he did today we see in practice every day. He's been a top two practice player all season. Sometimes he gets in foul trouble and never gets off and gets tentative, but tonight he didn't.”
Becoming a more balanced scoring threat has become Blackshear's focus of late.
“Coach has been on me a lot to get to the paint because he always tells me that if I do, it's either a foul, I score or I get my teammates an open shot,” Blackshear told Cardinal Authority. “I've been practicing just getting in the paint taking little jump shots and tonight I did a little of that.”
As the postseason approaches, Blackshear's role will continue to become greater. As a senior, who has multiple Final Four experience and a championship ring, the Chicago native will need to continue to perform as he did in Tallahassee.
“He's coming in and playing with confidence every game and that's what we need from him,” said junior forward Montrezl Harrell. “He's a senior and we know he's been around this team for awhile, so we have the utmost confidence in Wayne.”
The former McDonald's All-American, who struggled with shoulder injuries during his first two seasons as a Cardinal, is the only member of the team to start all 29 games and is averaging 10.7 points an outing. He's on pace to join the program's impressive 1,000-point club during upcoming ACC conference tournament, needing just 59 points to become the 67th member.