LOUISVILLE — So what could Louisville basketball fans take away from Tuesday’s exhibition game with Kentucky Wesleyan at the KFC Yum! Center?
That games could take longer this year.
That there’s a big difference between the No. 3 teams in NCAA Div. I and Div. II.
That the Cardinals need to work on their free throw shooting.
Defending national champion Louisville opened its season with a 115-67 thrashing of KWC, in a game that previewed how referees will be working this season.
With a mission to try and clean up basketball, officials will be calling games tighter.
On Tuesday that meant a lot of whistles, a lot of fouls, a lot of free throws.
Louisville was in the bonus before the first TV timeout, thanks to the Panthers being whistled for seven fouls in the first 2:41 of the game.
“What you saw is the way games are going to be called,” U of L coach Rick Pitino said. “We knew this was going to happen. Our starters did a very good job of taking advantage of the way the referees were calling the game and not fouling.
“When we subbed we fouled much more.”
The Cardinals could have taken better advantage of the situation if they had done a better job at the foul line. In the first half, when a total of 35 fouls were called (24 on Kentucky Wesleyan, 11 on Louisville), U of L went just 15-for-33 from the line.
For the game Louisville was 32-for-56. The bright spot was David Levitch, a freshman out of North Oldham, who was 6-for-6. The low point at the line was sophomore Montrezl Harrell, who was 2-for-11.
But Harrell more than made up for that by going 9-for-10 from the field. Seven of his nine field goals were dunks.
His 20 points led the Cardinals, who had five players in double figures. The others were guards — senior Russ Smith with 17 points, freshmen Terry Rozier and Anton Gill with 18 and 13, respectively, and junior college transfer Chris Jones with 16.
Louisville was able to cruise to the win without Final Four MVP Luke Hancock, who’s nursing an ankle injury; Kevin Ware, who’s recovering from a broken leg suffered in the NCAA Tournament; and Chane Behanan, who’s been suspended indefinitely.
Despite those absences, U of L managed to shoot 57.6 pecent from the field (65.7 percent in the second half), outrebound Kentucky Wesleyan 51-41 and turned the Panthers over 24 times.
KWC entered the game ranked No. 3 in the country in NCAA Div. II, and to be fair it was hard to judge the Panthers from this performance. They were hamstrung with foul trouble almost immediately and finished with 41 fouls. Five Kentucky Wesleyan players fouled out.
Get used to the whistles, Pitino said.
“We were ready for how the referees would call the game,” he said. “We’ve been working the last three weeks on how the game would be called. In practice we’ve called everything. I tell them, ‘Don’t get upset. Move your feet.’”
Pitino saw a similar change in officiating while in the NBA, and he said it’s just a matter of time before everyone is on the same page.
“It’ll be a better game once everyone adapts,” he said. “I think it’ll take about a month, and you’ll see much more zone because of it. We’ve been running more zone offense because of it.”
Kentucky Wesleyan, coached by former Georgetown College head coach Happy Osborne, was led in scoring by Ken-Jah Bosley. Bosley, a freshman from Madison Central who hit the game-winning shot against Ballard in the state championship game, led all scorers with 21 points.
The Cardinals play their second exhibition game Nov. 6 against Pikeville, and they open the regular season at home Nov. 9 against the College of Charleston.