Swopshire scored 13 points, to lead four in double figures, and grabbed eight rebounds off the bench as UofL pulled away in the final few minutes to win the battle of the Cardinals by 20 in front of 19,842 at the KFC Yum! Center in the Global Sports Invitational.
Freshman forward Chane Behanan added 10 points and 13 rebounds – his second straight double-double – while Peyton Siva added 11 points and Chris Smith tallied 10. Siva and Smith combined for 12 points as the home Cards closed the game with a 16-4 run after pesky Lamar had cut it to eight late.
"I'm feeling good, especially since we got a win," Swopshire said.
The redshirt junior continues to show that his game is growing after missing all of last season with a groin injury. He was 6 of 14 from the field (both team-highs) and had eight points and five rebounds in the first half, when UofL built a 36-23 lead.
Louisville (2-0) didn't play its best, giving up 21 offensive rebounds and 14 second-chance points to Lamar, and lost junior guard Mike Marra to a knee injury early in the second half, but played well enough against a foe that associate coach Richard Pitino compared to the type of team his Cards will see later in the season.
"I thought we played a very tough team," said Richard Pitino, who subbed for his father, head coach Rick, at the post-game press conference. "They're a very tough, physical team with four seniors and a junior in their starting lineup. Our problem is fundamentally we are young right now. We don't do a good job at talking and communicating. It is tough, that is a Big East-tough team. It was a good test for us early. We knew after one day of prep it wasn't going to be an easy game."
Lamar (1-1), which was picked third in the Southland Conference East Division in the preseason coaches' poll and is coached by Pat Knight (son of legendary coach Bob Knight), put up a fight despite missing 17 of its first 18 shots.
"They get you going too fast," Knight said. "By playing that matchup zone the kids come down and they get confused. Instead of running the man-to-man offense against it the kids just want to back up and try to figure out if it's a zone or not. Their defense takes you out of rhythm, we could not get into a rhythm. We missed some open looks, but a lot of that is they get you out of your rhythm."
UofL benefitted from Lamar's cold shooting, going on a 12-2 run midway through the first half. Gorgui Dieng started that surge with a half-hook in the lane, then Swopshire followed that up with back-to-back baskets before a Kyle Kuric steal and layup and a Dieng dunk made it 19-9 Louisville with just under 10 minutes to play in the opening half.
Louisville led by as many as 16 points in the first 20 minutes and was still up 13 at the half thanks to 50 percent shooting (14 for 28), compared with Lamar's 18.3 percent shooting (6 for 33) – the lowest by any UofL opponent in any half over the last 10 seasons.
UofL's lead grew to 20 (47-27) with 13 minutes to play before Lamar began to chip away at Louisville's lead.
Lamar clawed its way back into the game through crashing the glass, and just hard play in general. Mike James' jumper made it 52-44 with 5:58 remaining.
"They got a couple of offensive rebounds from us and I think that they got a couple of put-backs," Piitno said. "We missed a lot of assignments blocking out that we are going to have to go back and look at…A guy like Kyle (Kuric) played 37 minutes and only had four rebounds. Chane gets 13, that's good, and Gorgui gets nine, that's good, and Jared gets eight, but everybody else needs to step up. We were up plus-five on the glass (49-44) and we gave up 21 offensive rebounds and that was really the issue. When we sent them to the foul line they made 15 (of 27) foul shots."
That's when the host Cards' guards took over. Siva hit two free throws, then hit Smith with a feed in the corner for a three-pointer. After a Lamar basket Smith hit 1 of 2 free throws, then Behanan scored off an offensive rebound after the visiting Cards missed the front end of a one-and-one. Lamar missed another front end and Smith hit two more free throws to make it 62-46.
"We picked up our pressure on defense to slow them down, and we tried to match their toughness," Smith said.
Lamar hit another baskets, but the Cards scored the final six – two free throws by Dieng, two more by Siva and the exclamation point fast-break dunk by the junior point guard from Seattle.
The only big question after the game was the severity of the injury to Marra, who fell to the ground in pain with a little more than 12 minutes remaining in the game. He was on crutches in the UofL locker room afterwards and said that he was going for an MRI later this season.
"It felt like the bone came right out of the socket, then went right back in again," said Marra, who had six points and two rebounds before the injury. "I heard it pop and it scared the s--- out of me, that's why I screamed."
UofL will play at Butler this Saturday afternoon before returning to action in the Global Sports Invitational.
"We have a long week to prepare for Butler," Richard Pitino said. "They are a very good team and it is going to be a tough challenge for us on the road and in a hostile environment on Saturday. We really have to get better fundamentally."