LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) All-America forward Montrezl Harrell led the team with 15 points, Terry Rozier had a strong shooting night and senior forward Wayne Black had a career-high five assists. Still, coach Rick Pitino held his highest praise for point guard Chris Jones.
Jones had 10 points, five assists, five steals and matched acareer high with six rebounds in No. 7 Louisville’s easy 88-39 win over Jacksonville State on Monday night.
”Without question … he was the best player on the floor tonight,” Pitino said, singling out the senior’s rebounding that helped spark a ”brilliant” team passing effort.
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Jones, who had to adjust last season to both transferring from junior college and sharing the ball with star backcourt mate Russ Smith, said his first priority this year is on the opposite end of the court.
”As long as I play defense, I think my team will go when I go,” Jones said. ”If I start off strong then we’ll finish strong.”
Louisville won its 14th straight home opener, all under Pitino. Harrell played just 24 minutes as coach Rick Pitino rested his starters for much of the second half.
Rozier scored 13 on 5 of 7 shooting and freshman Chinanu Onuaku added 12 points and 10 rebounds for Louisville. Wayne Blackshear had 12 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
Darion Rackley led Jacksonville State (0-2) with 11 points. The Gamecocks turned the ball over 15 times in the first half and went through a stretch in the second half in which they missed 15 straight shots.
Louisville led by just six midway through the first half but rattled off runs of 13, 18 and 23 in taking a 51-point lead with 9:26 remaining.
Jacksonville State guard Avery Moore’s 3-pointer with 11:54 left in the first half cut the Louisville lead to 19-13 before the Cardinals broke the game open. Louisville forced four turnovers in 84 seconds, scoring 10 during the stretch as part of 13-0 run. The Gamecocks were scoreless for more than 5 minutes as Louisville increased its lead to 32-13.
It only got worse for the Gamecocks after the break. Senior forward D.J. Felder scored the half’s opening basket but Jacksonville State didn’t score again for nearly 11 minutes.
”I’m not ashamed of our guys it’s a great opportunity for our guys to play in a great arena against a great basketball program that they’ll remember,” Jacksonville State coach James Green said. ”Unfortunately it’s not a very good taste in their mouth.”
Louisville: Louisville is the only school in the nation entering the year with three straight 30 win seasons. The stretch includes a school-record 35 wins by the Cardinals’ 2012-13 national championship team.
Jacksonville State: Monday marked the highest ranked opponent the Gamecocks have ever faced. Their last meeting with a ranked foe came in an 11-point loss at No. 14 Murray State in 2012.
Louisville’s 49-point win was its largest since a 61-point rout of Rutgers on March 13. … Louisville’s 60 rebounds are the school’s most since pulling down 60 against East Carolina on Jan. 19, 2005. The 60-26 rebounding edge (plus-34) is the program’s largest margin in the last 16 seasons.
Louisville: hosts Marshall on Friday.
Jacksonville State: travels to Cleveland State on Wednesday.