No. 13 Louisville rolls past Evansville in opener
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Jaylon Johnson and Donavan Mitchell had seen enough. Louisville trailed Evansville midway through the first half of their season opener Friday night and the 13th-ranked Cardinals needed a kick start.
Mitchell and Johnson got the Cardinals going with a 23-1 run to end the first half and the Cardinals rolled to an easy 78-47 victory.
''We showed tonight we're not backing down,'' said Mitchell who had 15 points, five rebounds and four steals. ''We don't care who you are or who you have on your team. We were playing soft and they got some loose balls. We are not that type of team (soft).''
Johnson had 17 points and 14 rebounds.
''We had a little bit of a problem with the communications on our switches (defensively),'' said Johnson who had his first double-double. ''Coach (Pitino) told us to buckle down. `Wake up.'''
The Cardinals had little trouble after the first 11 minutes of the game.
Mangok Mathiang added 11 points and eight rebounds as the Cardinals played 14 players with 10 scoring. The Cardinals stared slow but got rolling late in the first half, holding the Purple Aces without a field goal over the last 9:05 of the half to take a 43-27 halftime lead.
Senior Jaylon Brown led the Aces with 19 points but made only 5 of 13 shots from the field against the Cardinals mostly man-to-man defense. Evansville made just 16 of 57 field goals attempts.
Louisville coach Rick Pitino wanted the Cardinals to play fast and they did, especially late in the first half. The Cardinals trailed 26-20 with 9:05 but went on a 23-1 run.
Louisville outrebounded the smaller Purple Aces 52-29 and had 10 blocked shots. The Cardinals shot 47.6 percent from the field but made just three of 15 3-point attempts.
The Cardinals forced Evansville into 13 turnovers and 28.1 field goal shooting (16 of 57) in the first half.
''Well, I think we had the jitters a little bit early in the game, which is normal for an opening game with an inexperienced team,'' Cardinals coach Rick Pitino said. ''Really, we played great defense, but we didn't get the loose balls on the ground after playing great defense. So this was a great beginning.''
The Purple Aces finished the first half missing their final 14 field goal attempts with six turnovers. Evansville was giving the Cardinals fits leading 26-20 with 9:05 after Brown hit two 3-pointers.
Johnson, who made just two of 10 3-point attempts last season, pulled up from the right side and swished his first attempt of 2016.
''The first part of the game we were able to do some decent things,'' Purple Aces coach Marty Simmons said. ''We're pretty disappointed to be outscored 58-21 in the last 30 minutes.''
The win was the Cardinals 100th (100-14) at the Yum Center in just their sixth season there.
Evansville: The Purple Aces had to replace several key players from a team that went 25-9 last season.
Louisville: Pitino hyped this opener as the first of several big non-conference tests for his team. The Cardinals host Long Beach State next Thursday and face LSU or Wichita State in the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas before hosting Purdue in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Nov. 30.
Louisville and Evansville are separated by only about 120 miles and hadn't played since 1957. The win by the Cardinals ties the series 13-13.
Pitino was asked about this week election of Donald Trump as president and he had plenty to say.
''I said it the other night. He's our elected president and you can protest all you want, but he is not resigning.,'' Pitino said. ''Look, I've got problems with him just like everybody does. Everyone in this room has problems with him and I think the only way to remedy a problem is to find a solution.''
Evansville: The Purple Aces host Alcorn State on Monday night.
Louisville: Hosts William & Mary on Monday night in the third meeting between the schools and first since 1952. The Cardinals lead 2-0 but face a team that went 20-11 last season.