Rick Pitino wants Louisville to have fun.
That shouldn’t be a problem over the next two games.
Less than a week away from a meeting against American Athletic Conference-leader Cincinnati, the No. 13 Cardinals look to continue their dominance of Rutgers on Sunday.
Louisville’s only loss in its last eight games was a 69-66 defeat to the then-13th-ranked Bearcats on Jan. 30. A three-game win streak has followed with the Cardinals outscoring opponents by an average of 18.7 points.
They had little trouble Friday, scoring 52 first-half points en route to an 82-58 rout at Temple.
Pitino feels lightening the mood has helped, as he and the team have decided to stop shaving until its next loss.
"We all said, ‘Let’s have some fun. Let’s grow beards until we lose,’" Pitino said. "It’s the first time in my life I’m trying to grow a beard. It’s the first time I looked in the mirror and saw multifaceted hair coming in different colors. We want to have some fun right now. Hopefully, we can get on a streak and grow some full beards."
Those follicles don’t appear to be in jeopardy in the near future since Louisville (20-4, 9-2) is hosting Rutgers (10-15, 4-8) two days before South Florida, another team with a losing record in league play. However, the Cardinals follow that with a visit to Cincinnati on Saturday.
Louisville is 12-1 all-time against the Scarlet Knights, winning all five at home. The Cardinals recorded their eighth straight win in the series, 83-76 on Jan. 4 behind Russ Smith’s 22 points.
The senior guard averages team bests of 18.2 points and 4.6 assists per game, but was limited to 15 and two Friday.
Montrezl Harrell helped pick up the slack with a career-high 22 points and 10 rebounds against the Owls, putting on an impressive display with six dunks, including an alley-oop. The sophomore forward is averaging 16.8 points over the past six games, but he was held to six at Rutgers last month.
The Scarlet Knights, 1-7 on the road, have lost 11 in a row to ranked opponents, including three this season by an average of 17.0 points.
That slide continued with Friday’s 77-65 loss to No. 23 SMU. However, coach Eddie Jordan wasn’t discouraged despite his team shooting 41.1 percent from the floor – 3 of 14 from behind the arc.
"I really didn’t have a problem with the way we played," Jordan said. "I thought we had terrific effort, we shared the basketball, we played the game plan for the most part, but there was some breakdowns, some missed assignments. But for 40 minutes we stayed together, we shared the game and we just played against a good team that’s on a good roll right now."
Myles Mack, who had a team-high 17 points Friday, leads Rutgers with 15.8 per contest. He hasn’t been as effective on the road recently, averaging 11.8 points on 13-of-42 (31.0 percent) shooting over the past four contests.
The junior guard had 19 points against Louisville on Jan. 4, while freshman Craig Brown added a season-high 17 off the bench.
Brown is averaging 3.9 points on 34.1 percent shooting in 10 games since.