Russ Smith scored 23 points and Peyton Siva added 10 points and 10 assists as No. 2 Louisville pulled away from Manhattan for a season-opening 79-51 victory on Sunday.
Chane Behanan had nine rebounds and eight points for the Cardinals as they won their ninth straight opener.
The Cardinals won despite continuing woes with their 3-point shooting. They went 8 for 30, with Smith making 4 of 13.
Siva, the Most Outstanding Player in last season’s Big East Conference tournament, matched his career high in assists while recording only his second double-double.
Rhamel Brown had 18 points and 15 rebounds for Manhattan and Michael Alverado added 13. George Beamon, the Jaspers’ top scorer, did not play after injuring his ankle in practice on Friday.
The school played for the first time since the 2002-03 season. This was the first time Jaspers coach Steve Masiello coached against Louisville, where he was an assistant under Rick Pitino from 2005-11.
”That was some homecoming,” Masiello joked. ”We struggled to find our flow offensively.”
Louisville forced 27 Manhattan turnovers and held the Jaspers to 36 percent shooting.
Manhattan had a rough lead-in on the season. The Jaspers were displaced by Superstorm Sandy, practiced in a borrowed gym and had an exhibition game against C.W. Post cancelled.
In spite of everything, Manhattan trailed Louisville by just 28-19 at halftime.
The Cardinals started a couple of new faces in junior guard Luke Hancock and freshman Montrezl Harrell.
Hancock made his Cardinals’ debut after sitting out last season per NCAA rules following his transfer from George Mason. Though still recovering from surgery last spring on his right shooting shoulder, he is expected to boost Louisville’s perimeter shooting after the team converted 32 percent from 3-point range during last year’s Final Four run.
The first half showed that that’s still a work in progress for Hancock and the Cardinals, who were coming off a 1-for-19 showing from behind the arc in last Wednesday’s exhibition victory over Bellarmine. Louisville followed up by hitting just 3 for 12 in the first half with only Smith having success.
Hancock had good looks on his nine attempts but just couldn’t get them to fall early on. In fact, his only first-half basket was a reverse layup off a pass from Siva for Louisville’s first points.
The co-captain finally broke through with 11:46 remaining in the game, making one from the right side to give the Cardinals a 48-32 lead. He finished 2 of 9 from outside for eight points.
”I don’t mind taking a lot of 3s,” Pitino said, ”but we’ve got to be better rebounders from the guard spot.”
Louisville used 11 of 13 players available against Masiello’s Manhattan squad that has adopted Pitino’s tough defensive philosophy. The Cardinals committed only 12 turnovers and controlled the inside.
The Cardinals got solid defensive play from sophomore center Zach Price, calling him into action quickly after Gorgui Dieng picked up two quick fouls in the first half.
Harrell, meanwhile, showed some of the promise expected, stealing the ball near midcourt and driving for Louisville’s second basket and muscling underneath for a layup later on to provide a 17-5 lead.