BY MIKE RILEY
No. 2 Louisville had its final tuneup of the season Wednesday as a crowd of 20,422 watched the Cardinals turn back Division II No.8 Bellarmine 65-46 at the KFC Yum! Center.
Louisville ended the first half with a 17-5 run to lead 32-15 at halftime. The Cardinals were never threatened in the second half, although some statistics would tell otherwise.
Louisville held its modest lead despite the Knights hitting only 19 percent (6-of-31) of their field goal attempts before halftime. The Knights improved slightly after halftime finishing at 16-of 60 for 26 percent.
The Cardinals faired somewhat better from the floor — finishing at 26-of- 55 for 47 percent, but included in that total was a 1-of-19 mark from three-point range. Louisville could only convert only 12-of-23 from the free throw line and was outrebounded by the smaller Knights 43-38, and that was with the Cardinals closing the gap near game’s end.
“This game was more difficult than our last because basically you’re just chasing around five guards,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. “It takes a lot out of you, but from a defensive practice standpoint, it was great.
“And as far as our poor shooti ng, I believe it was a combination of us rushing things and being tired from chasing them around.”
Freshman Montrezl Harrell led Louisville with 16 points. Center Gorgui Dieng added 14 points and 12 rebounds while Russ Smith had 11 points.
Bellarmine coach S cott Davenport, who served as an assistant coach at Louisville under both Pitino and Denny Crum, sounded like anything other than a coach who had suffered a 20 point loss.
“I’ve never been more proud of a team that shot 27 percent,” he said. “ We had good looks, but they are so long. They get on you.
“And you don’t have this atmosphere every night. There are 311 teams in Division II, 310 of them would have liked to have been playing here tonight. You look at their lineup and figure you have to dea l with Gorgui and Harrell. You do — but it’s that three-headed monster of (Peyton) Siva, (Luke) Hancock and Russ Smth.”
Chris Dowe led Bellarmine with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Vance Hall added 13 points.
“I talked to Coach Pitino yesterday and we agreed that we were going to make this a fun game,” Davenport said. “This town and community is very lucky to have these two teams to support them.”
Louisville will open its regular season on Sunday as it hosts Manhattan, which is coached by another former Pitino assistant, Steve Masiello. The Knights will open the regular season next Thursday when they host Wayne State.
“We’re going to know Sunday how good we are,” Pitino said. “All of our games are on TV up there. They will expose any weaknesses we have. We’ll have a much better taste of how we play.”
Former Clarksville star Billy Edelen is a freshman guard for the Knights. Edelen has yet to see action for the Knights against either Louisville or in the Knights’ 86-51 loss at Cincinnati on Saturday.