University of Louisville basketball fans are likely hoping so after the redshirt junior scored 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds, while sporting a new sleek hairstyle, to lead the Cardinals to a 62-54 victory over defending NCAA Division II national champ Bellarmine University in front of 20,389 Thursday night at the KFC Yum! Center.
"I really thought Swop played well," UofL coach Rick Pitino said.
Swopshire, who was sidelined all of last season with a groin injury and looked out of sync most of the 12 minutes he played in Louisville's first exhibition game against Pikeville, appeared to be much more at ease against the Knights. He made 7 of 9 shots while grabbing two offensive rebounds and seven defensive boards.
"I felt great, it was great to be out there and play with my teammates," Swopshire said afterward.
Swopshire scored eight points in the first half, on 4-for-4 shooting, in helping the Cards to a 33-25 lead. Then he scored six of Louisville's final 12 points as the Cards, who are ranked No. 8 in the ESPN/USA Today preseason Top 25 and No. 9 in the Associated Press preseason poll, held off stubborn Bellarmine.
He was a big reason why UofL shot 50 percent (26 for 52) from the field, outrebounded the Knights 40-24 and outscored them 40-24 in the paint, along with 27-17 in bench scoring.
"Swop's coming along well," senior guard Chris Smith said. "This was a good game for him to play a lot of minutes and get a feel for the game."
Swopshire checked into the game with Louisville trailing Bellarmine 7-6 and quickly made an impact in the game. His first four minutes on the floor he had four points and two rebounds as the Cards clawed back from one-point down to a six-point lead (15-9).
Swopshire and sophomore guard Russ Smith, who missed the Pikeville game, gave Louisville some instant offense in the first half. Smith scored eight quick points in 14 first-half minutes as the Cards played without starting point guard Peyton Siva, who was sidelined due to a concussion.
"He's like lightning when he comes in, he's very energetic," Swopshire said of Russ Smith.
Freshman forward Chane Behanan also had eight first-half points, but it was Swopshire's layup 39 seconds before intermission that gave the Cards an eight-point cushion.
Louisville opened up its largest lead (11 points) when Smith hit 1 of 2 free throws to make it 43-32 with 14:20 to play. But Bellarmine, which has five players from Louisville and five more from southern Indiana, wouldn't back down.
The Knights got as close as three points (52-49) on Jeremy Kendle's three-pointer with 5:46 remaining. Kendle, who is from Jeffersonville, Ind., finished with a game-high 23 points.
Louisville responded, though, with six straight points on a layup by Chris Smith, a jumper by Swopshire and a jumper by Chris Smith.
Kendle came right back with another three-pointer to cut the Cards' lead to six, but Swopshire scored on a layup with 2:22 to play to make it 60-52.
"I feel like I'm improving day-by-day and that's my goal," Swopshire said.
Russ Smith finished with 13 points on 6 of 13 shooting and did have three steals to partially help offset his five turnovers. Behanan finished with 14 points and nine rebounds in only 22 minutes.
Pitino gave Bellarmine coach Scott Davenport, his former assistant at UofL, a pair of ostrich Gucci shoes before the game.
"He better wear them, the cost of those shoes," Pitino said afterward. "He better wear them to bed."
Thursday night's game put the exhibition portion of Louisville's schedule to bed. The Cards begin regular-season play at 7:07 p.m. next Friday night when they host Tennessee-Martin.