CRAWFORD | Five takeaways from Louisville's 86-45 season-opening - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Five takeaways from Louisville's 86-45 season-opening win over Samford

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WDRB photo by Eric Crawford WDRB photo by Eric Crawford

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — There was a bit of hand-wringing after a couple of closer-than-expected exhibitions for the University of Louisville basketball team (though, keep in mind, they played two of the better teams in NCAA Division II in those games).

But against Samford with the lights on and the arena full for the first game of the 2015-16 season, the Louisville basketball team turned on.

Its interior size bothered Samford into 21 percent shooting and the Cards used a balance offensive attack to roll to an 86-45 victory before a KFC Yum! Center crowd of 20,347. (Click to the right for stats.) It was the largest margin of victory in a season opener since Rick Pitino's first game as U of L coach -- a 92-38 win over South Alabama on Nov. 18, 2001.

Samford's field-goal percentage was the lowest for a U of L opponent since Savannah State shot just 19.6 percent on Nv. 24, 2014.

"We made some stark improvements from last week to this week on offense and defense," Pitino said. ". . . Overall really pleased. We did a lot of good things tonight."

Five quick takeaways:

1. SIZE MATTERED. Cardinals coach Rick Pitino said this will be the best shot-blocking team he’s had at Louisville. The Cards blocked nine shots in the first 30 minutes of Friday’s game, and gave up just eight points in the first 12 minutes of the second half on just 3 of 19 shooting. Chinanu Onuaku (5 blocks) and Mangok Mathiang (3 blocks) led the effort. The nine blocks were just two shy of the season high total for last season.

2. ONUAKU WAS ON. The sophomore center was as sharp as he’s been in a Louisville uniform — 5 of 5 from the field, made his only free throw, grabbed five rebounds, blocked five shots, and brought the crowd to its feet with this breakaway slam, captured by publisher Jody Demling:

3. NEWCOMER ROUNDUP: Donovan Mitchell was the newcomer of influence early, coming off the bench to kick start the Louisville offense. He finished with 14 points on 4 of 4 shooting, including 5 of 6 from the line, to go with three rebounds and a team-high three steals. Trey Lewis dished out a team-best six assists in his Cardinal debut and finished with seven points despite 1-for-7 shooting from the field. Damion Lee got off to a slow start because he picked up two quick fouls to start the game. He made his first three-pointer with 9:44 left in the game, for his first U of L points. He wound up scoring 14 points in 5:35 to tie Mitchell for team scoring honors.

4. STAT OF THE GAME: The Cardinals made 30 field goals on 19 assists. The assist total was just two shy of the team's high for any game last season. Nine players had at least one assist. Point guards Lewis and Quentin Snider combined for 10.

5. NEXT UP: The Cardinals will face Hartford on Tuesday in the first game of the Brooklyn Hoops Holiday Invitational that will culminate with the Cards facing Saint Louis in the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Nov. 28. The game Tuesday will be available on ESPN3 only.

Copyright 2015 WDRB News. All Rights Reserved.

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