LOUISVILLE — It was nothing he hadn’t seen, nothing he didn’t expect.
When Kareem Richardson sent out his Missouri-Kansas City basketball team to take on seventh-ranked Louisville Wednesday at the KFC Yum! Center, he knew more about the Cardinals than almost any other coach they’ll face this year.
The problem was using that knowledge to the Kangaroos’ advantage.
U of L (7-1) had little trouble with UMKC, winning 90-62, despite the fact Kareem Richardson, the head coach of the Kangaroos, was an assistant at Louisville last year during its national championship run.
“Obviously going up against the caliber of a team like Louisville, it was certainly a challenge for us,” Richardson said.
It certainly was.
The Cardinals were ahead 43-27 at halftime and had their biggest lead, at 31 points, with just over five minutes left in the game.
Louisville outrebounded UMKC 49-29, placed five players in double figures, had 19 assists and just nine turnovers while shooting 43 percent from the field.
Two Cardinals had double-doubles — Chane Behanan with 11 points and 11 rebounds, and Russ Smith with 10 points and 11 assists — and neither player started.
Still, it wasn’t the performance Louisville coach Rick Pitino was looking for.
“Some things we did well tonight and some things we didn’t,” he said. “We pressed very well, got a lot of deflections. We just got beat off the dribble quite a bit.
“That’s probably our biggest weakness, is how often we get beat off the bounce and whether it’s the new rules, our better players are getting beat too much. We’ve got to correct that the next few days because this team was obviously very inferior to our athletic ability, but they played very, very hard.
“We’re playing teams with more ability coming up, and we don’t want to get caught like we did against North Carolina, so we’ve got to pick up our ball containment.”
Louisville’s only loss this season came against North Carolina, while the Kangaroos’ only win came at Tennessee-Martin Nov. 20. UKMC (1-6) has lost to teams such as Creighton and Iowa State, but it’s also dropped decisions to Emporia State and Omaha.
The Kangaroos never seriously threatened U of L, but they shot a higher percentage from the field (46) than the Cardinals.
“I was really pleased with our guys’ effort,” Richardson said. “That’s one of the main things we wanted to do.”
But that wasn’t enough to beat the Cardinals’ press, which forced UMKC into 20 turnovers.
“Those guys, certainly, it seemed like they had seven or eight guys,” Richardson said. “Now I know how other teams felt last year. They fly around and create a lot of havoc.”
Louisville’s depth was a factor Wednesday with 14 players seeing action and no one playing fewer than four minutes.
Montrezl Harrell led the Cardinals with 14 points, followed by Behanan with 11 and Smith, Chris Jones and Luke Hancock with 10 points each.
Despite those numbers, Pitino complimented just one player for his performance.
“I thought Chane was the only player on the team that played real well tonight,” Pitino said. “I think some guys played mediocre, but I thought Chane really played well.”
Behanan might have had the best showing, but Smith had an assist before the game ever started.
“Russ came to me and said ‘Listen, coach, I didn’t practice well tonight. Chris had a great practice; start him,’” Pitino said. “I said, ‘Russ, you don’t have to do that after one bad practice,’ and he said, ‘No coach, we’ve got to send the message. Don’t start me. I came off the bench for a whole year. Luke came off the bench. We’ve got to get this feeling it’s all about team first.’ So I was real proud of him when he did that.”
Louisville is back in action at home Saturday against Louisiana-Lafayette.
Richardson, after seeing the Cardinals win it all last year, thinks they have a chance to repeat this season.
“I tell you, that Louisville team, they’re going to be good,” he said. “Not going, they are good despite what Coach might think. They have enough talent and enough depth to really make a run at it again.
“I know a lot of things have to go the right way, but they’re certainly good.”