Rick Pitino took just a moment to savor his 600th college victory Friday night after No. 9 Louisville beat UT-Martin 83-48 in their season opener. The win he’s really looking for will come when he wins a second national title.
Article continues below ...
The 59-year-old Pitino won his first at Kentucky in 1996 and is the only coach to take three different schools (Providence, Kentucky and Louisville) to the Final Four. However, a return trip to the national semifinals is not his ultimate goal at Louisville.
”I want to win a championship here badly. Badly,” said Pitino, now in his 11th season with the Cardinals. ”It’s not just the Final Four. We have the character, we have the discipline to someday get that done.
”We’ve just got to keep recruiting the Chane Behanans.”
The McDonald’s All-American had 14 points and 12 rebounds in his debut for Pitino.
”Because, let’s face it, when you have freshmen like that there’s always the chance you can get to the Final Four and win a championship,” the coach said.
Louisville jumped out to an early lead behind the full-court press that’s sparked so many of Pitino’s victories. Louisville caused 13 first-half turnovers that led to 18 points.
The Cardinals’ pressure sparked a five-minute 15-2 run less than four minutes into the game that set the tone and put Louisville up 25-7 with 11:05 left in the half. The Cardinals forced five of their 21 turnovers during the stretch.
Point guard Peyton Siva said the Louisville pressure eventually wore down the Skyhawks.
”We got them tired and they’re a great shooting team,” Siva said. ”They shot a lot of short shots from three. It just helped us, getting out on the break.”
The Cardinals exhibited another hallmark of Pitino’s style: willingness to pass the basketball. Louisville racked up 20 assists on 31 field goals. The Cardinals were fifth in the NCAA in assists last year with 17.4 a game.
”We played very unselfishly and very intense defense. We did an excellent job of sharing the basketball,” Pitino said.
Siva had nine assists, one off his career high, and added 10 points. Kyle Kuric finished with 14 points, all in the first half. His strong start put Louisville, which never trailed, up 47-23 at the half.
Mike Liabo had 15 points and four assists for the Skyhawks.