LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Who knew that when University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino talked in the preseason about a dynasty, he meant Duck Dynasty?
This is what happens when you spend two days in Philadelphia in a hotel waiting to play the last-place team in your league. Pitino, who last season after a five-overtime loss to Notre Dame promised his team he'd get a tattoo if they won out, hatched a hair-raising idea this week. He told the Cardinals that he wouldn't shave again until they lose. And the team's assistant coaches and players are joining in the movement.
Their game against Temple certainly was no close shave. In their first game after a nine-day layoff, the Cards pounded Temple 82-58 in Philadelphia, in a game originally scheduled to be played on Thursday night but postponed by a snow and ice storm that gridlocked much of the norhteast.
After the game, Pitino told Bob Valvano on the Cards' Learfield Sports postgame show that he'd be happy not to shave for the rest of the season.
"I wanted to let them have some fun," Pitino said. "I said look guys, when we were on our run last year, Luke grew a beard, and I've never done that, let's see how many colors I can get on my face and let's all grow a beard until we lose. And everybody's doing it right now. Mine is coming in gray, I don't like that. What is that thing called, Hair for Men? I may have to get some of that. … I hope I am stuck with this. I'd love to have this like last year. I'll grow it down to my knees if we just keep winning."
The Cards, who improved to 20-4 on the season and 9-2 in the American Athletic Conference, rolled to a 52-22 lead and stayed on the gas for most of the second half.
They outscored Temple 22-12 in the paint in the first half and 12-3 off turnovers.
Montrezl Harrell finished with a game-high 22 points and took a team-high 16 shots, making nine of them, including six dunks, one short of the school single-game record.
Harrell also blocked four shots and had a pair of assists in 31 minutes.
"Four blocks — we've been waiting for him to do that," Pitino told Valvano on his postgame radio program. "He was very active. Guys got beat (defensively) and he stepped up. And he's really evolving into an outstanding offensive basketball player. I mean, some of his dunks aren't easy. They're very acrobatic. He has a nice jump hook in the lane. He's got to work on his free throws. That was about the only thing we didn't do well tonight, we were 11-24."
The Cards also got more complementary play from Russ Smith and Chris Jones. The guards combined of r25 points, seven assists and five steals. Russ Smith made 7 of 10 shots and finished with 15 points. One key, Pitino said, was Jones developing an understanding of when Smith wants to play point and when he wants to play shooting guard.
"I think they mesh, I just think what Chris has to realize, and he deferred to him tonight, is Russ wants to play the point sometimes, and just move over to the two when he does," Pitino said. "They've been playing great together in practice, both guys. What Chris Jones gives you that nobody else gives you is he's a big steal guy. He gets his hands in there. Outside of a couple of plays where he got in the air and didn't know where to go he did a great job tonight."
Pitino said he was happy with his team's level of focus despite the distraction of a postponement, and of a gymnasium where the announced crowd was only 5,285. He more than once described his team's effort as "professional."
Wayne Blackshear came off the bench to score 13 points and Luke Hancock had 11. The pair shot a combined 5 of 9 from three-point range.
"This was one of our better games in terms of ball movement," Pitino said. "Going back door, looking things away, very aggressive on offense. I thought they were very professional about passing the basketball and reversing the basketball. It was one of our better games because, no crowd, last-place team, nine days off, and they played with the eye of the tiger, and I really liked that."
U of L has a quick turnaround. It will play host to Rutgers Sunday at 6 p.m.