Montrezl Harrell showed why he was so highly touted this preseason and how he might keep Louisville well-entrenched in the national spotlight.
The junior forward looks to build on a career-best scoring performance in the seventh-ranked Cardinals' home opener Monday night against Jacksonville State, part of the Global Sports Showcase.
After averaging 14.0 points and a team-leading 8.4 rebounds in 2013-14, Harrell was named a preseason All-American by multiple organizations and finished second in the ACC preseason player of the year balloting to North Carolina's Marcus Paige.
Harrell opened the 2014-15 campaign with 30 points on 9-of-12 shooting and seven rebounds in Friday's 81-68 win over Minnesota at the U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen in Puerto Rico. Senior guard Chris Jones contributed 13 points and sophomore Terry Rozier scored 18 - one shy of matching a career high - along with six rebounds, four assists and four steals.
After falling short last season, Harrell wants the Cardinals to push for a third trip to the national semifinals in four seasons and contend for a second national title in the last three. Louisville has won at least 30 games in a program-best three consecutive seasons.
"I feel like we can be another Final Four team," said Harrell, one of just three upperclassmen for the Cardinals. "Minnesota has a very good team, winning the NIT last year. They came at us very hard and threw a couple punches, but we weathered the storm."
That road continues with the Cardinals' quest to improve to 14-0 in home openers under coach Rick Pitino. Louisville will also seek a ninth consecutive win over a first-time opponent when it faces Jacksonville State.
The Gamecocks haven't averaged more than 67.0 points in the past four seasons and their average of 65.0 in 2013-14 was the lowest in the Ohio Valley Conference. They return 10 players from that 10-21 squad led by Darion Rackley, who averaged a team-best 13.1 points.
The guard had just five points on 1-of-6 shooting in a 74-55 loss at Marshall in Friday's season opener while fellow senior Avery Moore had a team-best 18 off the bench. The Gamecocks were outshot 50.0 percent to 37.0 and had 17 turnovers.
Louisville held Minnesota to 4-of-18 shooting from 3-point range and scored 18 points off 19 turnovers. The Cardinals led the seven power conferences with an average of 22.0 points off opponents' turnovers last season.
Louisville is the highest-ranked team that Jacksonville State has ever faced.
The Cardinals' next three home games are also part of the Global Sports Showcase, a five-team, round-robin event, and they will face Marshall in the next one Friday.