By Haley O’Shaugnessy–
When men’s basketball is playing against a team like Pikeville, who is defensively lacking and offensively small, it is difficult to truly predict from the exhibition game how good the Cardinals will be this year.
“Obviously, there was such a size differential that it was tough to tell how you played,” said head coach Rick Pitino. “I thought there were some good things; we got to work on our press for the first time, but you don’t know how much is legitimate, because they were such a small basketball team.”
Now, with that being said, the men’s basketball team did turn Thursday’s exhibition game into an exhibition party for the crowd, with a final score of 93-57. The score was not the only thing to celebrate, either. That score was achieved without Chane Behanan and Kevin Ware. Neither played due to suspensions. And while their suspensions are nothing to rejoice about, the fact that the team scored 93 points with two key players on the bench deserves a little nod of the head.
Deserving a big nod of the head was newcomer Montrezl Harrell. The freshman made a memorable debut, scoring 19 points with 13 rebounds. Among those 19 points were multiple impressive dunks that fans will be watching for in the future. Harrell was a powerhouse that the team and fans fed off.
Needless to say, fans left impressed with Harrell. They also left knowing now what Pitino meant by this year’s team “not being a three point team.” Keeping the opponent in mind, it is still impressive from an in-the-paint-standpoint that only 9 points of the team’s 93 came from three pointers. In past seasons, Louisville seemed to rely on three’s, which is why Pitino’s comments about three’s caused some nerves. But it appears Louisville will not have to use three’s as a crutch this season, especially with guys like Harrell and Gorgui Dieng playing so effectively down low.
Another notable moment came in the very beginning of the night, when Elisha Justice, who transferred from Louisville to Pikeville this season, received his Final Four ring from when he was with the team last year.
“It was great,” Junior Stephan Van Treese said. “Elisha is one of the nicest guys I know. He’s a great guy, and he deserves everything he gets. I’m happy he’s home, with his family, doing what he needs to do right now. I was happy to see him.”
The standing ovation Justice received made it clear that Louisville fans were happy to see him, too.
The University of Louisville men’s basketball team will play their final exhibition game on Wednesday, Nov. 7 against Bellarmine University. The game will be held at the KFC Yum! Center at 7 p.m.
Photos: Tricia Stern/The Louisville Cardinal