Harrell helps No. 13 Louisville cruise past Temple
PHILADELPHIA — Rick Pitino and his Louisville players have decided to stop shaving until they next lose.
The way the Cardinals are playing, they may have some pretty impressive beards.
Montrezl Harrell scored a career-high 22 points and No. 13 Louisville built a 30-point first-half lead en route to an 82-58 victory over Temple on Friday night.
"We all said, `Let’s have some fun. Let’s grow beards until we lose,’" Pitino said. "It’s the first time in my life I’m trying to grow a beard. It’s the first time I looked in the mirror and saw multifaceted hair coming in different colors. We want to have some fun right now. Hopefully, we can get on a streak and grow some full beards."
Russ Smith added 15 points to help the Cardinals (20-4, 9-2 American Athletic Conference) improve to 7-1 in their last eight games.
Wayne Blackshear finished with 13 points, Luke Hancock scored 11, and Harrell had 10 rebounds and four blocks in the game postponed a day because of a snowstorm.
"I thought everyone played well," Pitino said.
Will Cummings led Temple (6-17, 1-10) with 16 points and Anthony Lee added 14. The Owls shot 37.3 percent from the field to drop their fourth straight game and fall into a tie for last place in the conference with Central Florida.
Dalton Pepper, Temple’s leading scorer, was held to seven points on 3-for-10 shooting.
"That’s the way they play," Temple head coach Fran Dunphy said. "They try to take out the guy they think is the best scorer. So it’s not surprising he would have a bad day."
Louisville shot over 60 percent in the first half and went on runs of 10-0 and 17-2 to take a 52-25 lead into the break. Both of those spurts were highlighted by alley oops finished by Harrell, who had four dunks in the first half and two more in the second.
Harrell’s sixth dunk came with 11:04 remaining and gave Louisville its largest lead of the game to that point at 73-40. Temple only began to slice into the deficit when the Cardinals emptied their bench.
Harrell’s six dunks were one shy of Louisville’s single-game record set by Pervis Ellison in 1988.
"He’s just got a great basketball body," Dunphy said. "He was hard for us to guard, no question about it."
Hoping for an upset, Temple designated the contest a "White-Out," distributing 8,000 white T-shirts to fans.
But because of a sparse crowd, a majority of those T-shirts were left on their seats. And the undermanned and overmatched Owls never threatened to upset the defending national champs, committing eight turnovers in the first half and shooting 29 percent from 3-point range for the game.
The Owls have lost 12 of their last 13 games.
"It is frustrating?" Dunphy said. "Yeah it is. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t. But we’ve got to keep plugging away."
The only frustration for Louisville stemmed from the fact that Friday’s game was postponed a day because of the weather. That not only extended the Cardinals’ stay in Philadelphia but also extended their layoff to nine days without a game — which worried the Louisville coach.
"I’m not sure why the game was postponed to be honest with you," Pitino said. "We drove over here to practice. They were ready to play. Fran wanted to play. We wanted to play.
"But I heard the provost or the president had an engagement and couldn’t make the game, so he canceled it," he added with a laugh.
The Cardinals took out all of their frustration on the rim, using some highlight-reel dunks to improve their record against unranked opponents this season to 20-0.
And with two more games against unranked teams coming up, Pitino’s black-and-white peach fuzz may soon evolve into the 61-year-old coach’s first full beard.
"Last year Luke Hancock and Steve Van Treese did it," Pitino said about the beard pact. "I said, `We’re all going to do it this year and let’s see what type of streak we can get on.’ The rest of the guys are (at three days). This is only two. I had to do a commercial."
Temple fans did get some good news Friday when it was announced that Owls great Guy Rodgers had been elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. A two-time All-America selection, Rodgers scored 1,767 points in three seasons (1955-58) and led the Owls to two Final Fours (1956, 1958). He will join former Temple coaches John Chaney and Harry Litwack in the Hall of Fame.