CRAWFORD | Louisville is hot and cold in a second exhibition, be - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Louisville is hot and cold in a second exhibition, beats Bellarmine 81-60

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Rick Pitino and his Louisville players watch the Cardinals in the second half of their exhibition win over Bellarmine. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford) Rick Pitino and his Louisville players watch the Cardinals in the second half of their exhibition win over Bellarmine. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) —  In a pair of exhibition victories, the University of Louisville basketball team has come out of the gate and played great basketball, blowing to big leads behind sharp shooting and frantic full-court defense.

And, in both cases, the Cardinals failed to sustain it.

Against Bellarmine on Monday night, Louisville sprinted to a 37-point first-half lead, then was outscored in the second half. The Cardinals won 81-60, but it wasn’t the kind of finish that will send the team into the regular season with good vibes.

“If we could duplicate the first half we could be a pretty good basketball team,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. “. . . Sometimes, especially guys you really like a lot, it's tough to play with a lead, a big lead like that, but it just shows you the inexperience of this team that they didn't know how to play with the lead.”

And Bellarmine showed it had the ability to come back from a deficit.

Playing its third Top 25 opponent in six days, and coming off losses at Cincinnati and Indiana, Bellarmine didn’t appear to have its legs — or much of anything else — in the first half. It finished with just 17 points and 16 turnovers. The Knights went just 3 of 16 from the field.

It wasn’t a jovial, fun-loving Scott Davenport the Knights encountered in the locker room. Davenport knew his guys were fatigued; he just didn’t want them to know it. He demanded more effort, more passing and movement.

He said his players had backed up from Louisville’s pressure defense instead of attacking it.

“They are long and have length,” Davenport said. “I think the other thing that happens in the first half every year we play Louisville, their length and quickness is so good, those shots we hit in practice, in this game you are eight for nine inches further back, you shoot it a hair quicker, you arch it a little higher and it doesn't go down. You give them credit for that. We are not the only team they do that to. I mean their length and their athleticism can swallow you up whole. I tell you, I'm excited. I watch practice with them. They are really an improved basketball team.  They're good.”

At least, they were good in stretches. The Cardinals were still up by 33 after Daniel Ramser, a sophomore from Trinity, took an elbow to the head and had to be taken off the floor on a stretcher.

Soon after, Bellarmine began to play inspired basketball. The Knights scored 12 straight, and Louisville lacked ball movement and defensive communication. The Cardinals went flat.

“Their young man went down and we sort of got the air taken out of us a little bit and I hope he's OK, I pray he's OK,” Pitino said.

Ramser was taken to the hospital as a precaution, Davenport said. The coach said he’s proud of the way his team fought back.

“When it came down to it, we were a very fundamental team in the second half and that is what I'm proud of,” Davenport said. “It wasn't a fluke. Hey, we had one three-pointer that kind of hit dead.  It was just sharp passing. I think we had fourteen assists. That's how we play and I was proud of that.”

Pitino said his team still has work to do to play at the kind of tempo he wants with the kind of defensive intensity he wants. He still is looking for better ball movement, and more of it.

“Our guys didn't pass the ball,” Pitino said. “Donovan (Mitchell) was interested in scoring, Q (Quentin Snider) was interested in scoring and when they get to the level where a pass is more important than their score, that's when you'll have a really good offensive basketball team. It's been there, and I give them a lot of credit, it's been there, tonight it wasn't there. Sometimes when you play for a lead, you hunt shots more than hunting the pass. The mature thing is hunt to pass.”

The Cards were led by Mitchell and Deng Adel with 13 points each. They shot 47.7 percent even after going the final 4:35 of the game without a field goal. Some stats of concern: Bellarmine outscored Louisville in the paint, 26-7, and held the Cardinals to just 32 points in the second half.

Bellarmine was led by George Knott, a senior who didn’t receive a scholarship until this past summer when Davenport surprised him with one. Knott had 15 points and Adam Eberhard had 12.

Louisville opens its regular season on Friday against Evansville in the KFC Yum! Center. Bellarmine opens against Saginaw Valley State, ranked No. 4 in NCAA Division II, in Midland, Mich., on Friday night at 7.

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