Knight scored 25 points and Harrellson scored 23 and grabbed 14 rebounds to lead the University of Kentucky to a 78-63 victory over the Cardinals, who couldn't overcome a cold-shooting first half or the Wildcats on the glass, in front of 22,803 fans at the KFC Yum! Center.
"It doesn't take a smart answer to figure out that they were the better basketball team," UofL coach Rick Pitino said. "They were better on the glass, they were better at executing and they played a terrific game. They have good speed in the open court and they execute very well. We did a much better job in the second half of moving the basketball and going inside. That was our strategy."
Senior guard Preston Knowles nearly offset Knight's performance. Knowles, one of only three Kentucky native on the Cards' roster, scored 22 points - including 16 in the second half. But No. 22 UofL (11-2) had no answer inside for Harrellson, a 6-foot-10 senior, who hit 10 of 12 shots and grabbed six offensive and eight defensive rebounds to lead UK's 36-25 advantage on the backboards.
"I wouldn't say he (Harrellson) caught us by surprise," said junior guard Chris Smith, who added 15 points for the Cards. "We just didn't do what it takes to stop him."
But it wasn't just Harrellson and Knight, the 11th-ranked Wildcats (11-2) shot 50.9 percent (29 of 57) from the field and also got 12 points, eight rebounds and five assists from freshman forward Terrence Jones.
"They were the better team today, they shot 51 percent," Knowles said.
"They executed better than we did today, that was the difference in the game," Smith added.
That was especially true in the first half, when UK built a 35-24 lead and allowed the Cards only four shots in the lane. At least three of those were drives by UofL point guard Peyton Siva, who had his subsequent shot attempts blocked by the Wildcats.
"We felt if they were going to take the perimeter shot on us, then we had to go inside," Pitino said. "We only went inside four times and that was our Achilles Heel in the first half. We have to give their defense credit."
UofL won the opening tip and after the two teams traded misses Knowles buried a three-pointer 68 seconds into the game.
The two were tied at 6, both going 2-for-7 from the field, at the first TV timeout.
Then the Cards scored six straight - on a free throw from Smith, a steal and layup by Siva and a three-pointer by Knowles - to take a 12-6 lead. UofL made three of its first six threes, but missed its final six long-range tries of the first half.
"We kind of rushed our shots (in the first half)," said Smith, who was 6 for 8 from the field and also finished with six rebounds and four assists. "The game plan was just to do other things to get our shots off...we wanted to get into the lane, we wanted to pound it inside, but instead we settled for jump shots."
The Wildcats, however, scored 15 of the next 17 points, including the last nine in a row on an old-fashioned three-point play by Darius Miller, a runner by Knight, a turnaround by Miller and a steal and layup by DeAndre Liggins to make it 21-14.
Doron Lamb's three-pointer with 1:53 left in the half gave the Cats their largest lead, 35-24, heading into the locker room.
Harrellson had nine rebounds in the first half for UK, which out-rebounded the Cards 25-19 in the first 20 minutes.
UofL shot just 31.3 percent (10 for 32) in the first half, including 27.3 percent (3 of 11) from three-point range. Siva and Knowles were a combined 3-for-15 - Knowles 2-for-9, Siva 1-for-6 - from the field.
"I took a couple bad shots in the first half that kind of broke up our offense," Knowles said.
The rest of the Cards were a combined 7-for-17 (41.1 percent).
Meanwhile the Wildcats shot 41.2 percent (14 for 34) in the first half before both teams heated up after intermission.
Knight and Harrellson hit back-to-back three-pointers early in the second half to give UK its biggest lead, 44-26.
That was the beginning of a torrid stretch by both teams. UofL made nine straight shots - five by Knowles - while the Wildcats made 11 in a row.
UK led by 15 at the second TV timeout, when UofL pulled out all the stops. First there was an interview with former great Scooter McCray, then Hall of Fame coach Denny Crum and football coach Charlie Strong were shown on the videoboard. That seemed to energize the crowd, as well as the Cards.
Knowles sandwiched a pair of three-pointers around a basket by Jones, then hit another jumper to pull UofL within nine (54-45). That was as close as the Cards, who lost 71-62 at UK last season, would get.
"I think Siva is the key to their team, that was my opinion," UK coach John Calipari said. "I think Siva is really, really good and that's why we put DeAndre on him. We were hoping Knowles wouldn't go crazy, and then Knowles went crazy, so we put (Liggins) on Knowles."
And once the Wildcats did miss, they were usually their to corral the rebound.
"What was frustrating was we got them to miss, but then there were long rebounds from long jump shots and we didn't come up with the ball," Pitino said. "They had about four loose ball rebounds off of jump shots and that hurts you. Your ones, twos and threes cannot block out 28 feet from the basket, you hae to get in the lane and chase the rebounds down."
Louisville opens Big East play at 7 p.m. Wednesday against Seton Hall.
"Our guys will give it their all, we just need to stop quick shooting early in the game and use some ball movement to take better shots," Pitino said. "Our guys play hard, I like the team a lot, they play well. But Kentucky is just a better basketball team."