CRAWFORD | Harrell's big return -- scores 30 in Louisville's 81- - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Harrell's big return -- scores 30 in Louisville's 81-68 win over Minnesota

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — It bears repeating after the University of Louisville's season-opening 81-68 win over Minnesota on Friday in the Armed Forces Classic in Puerto Rico.

It's a good thing Montrezl Harrell came back. The junior made the first game of his preseason All-American campaign a memorable one. He scored 30 points on 9 of 12 shooting, made 3 of 4 three-pointers, 9 of 10 free throws and grabbed seven rebounds.

This matchup of coaching Pitinos turned out to be overshadowed by Harrell, who turned his back on the NBA for a return to college, and showed the expanded range he has worked all summer developing. He never came out of the game. At one point, he asked to come out, and Pitino called timeout instead.

"It was a brilliant performance," Pitino said on his postgame radio interview with Bob Valvano. "Look at his free throws, look at his jump shot, that three was big. So I'm real proud of him. When you see players get better like that, it's great. . . . And Terry Rozier, as great as Montrezl was, was just brilliant in every phase of the game."

In what was expected to be a fairly close game (U of L was an eight-point favorite going in), the Cards twice built 20-point leads before Minnesota threatened by pulling within eight at the 5-minute mark.

But U of L got a big three-pointer and a couple of important defensive rebounds from Quentin Snider and stabilized with a mini-run fueled by steals by Chris Jones, Terry Rozier and Harrell.

The game was foul-filled and plodding. The teams combined for 60 fouls.

The Cards got 18 points and six rebounds from Rozier, who also had four assists, four steals and no turnovers.

Jones had 13 points, three assists, three steals and no turnovers.

Pitino started Chinanu Onuaku, but the freshman did not score and had just three rebounds and an assist before fouling out. Coming off the bench, Mangok Mathiang had two points and four rebounds.

Pitino actually went with walk-on David Levitch in the final five minutes, because he said Rozier was so tired. He wasn't happy with the play of Wayne Blackshear, who was saddled with foul trouble all night, nor Anton Gill. But Levitch pleased him with his ability to get deflections and to make free throws.

And despite the team's struggles at the five spot, Pitino said he's encouraged.

"Chinanu is going to get a lot better, Jaylen Johnson is starting to get better, and we've got stars," Pitino said. "Harrell is a star. Rozier is a star. Chris Jones, if he maintains his emotional balance, he can be a star. . . . We did some spectacular things. We're only going to get better. Look, no matter what it is, we're not ready this time of year, we're just not, because we have so many things we have to work on. But you see the improvement, in Rozier, in David Levitch, in Montrezl, Mangok's going to be fine, we've got two centers, Chinanu's going to be big-time someday. I've just got to get Anton playing the kind of defense Louisville plays."


READ MORE IN ERIC CRAWFORD'S POSTGAME THOUGHTS, COMING SOON.

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