It wasn't a thing of beauty but the University of Louisville basketball team still moved to 5-0 on the season Wednesday night with a 45-33 win over Cleveland State.
The Cardinals hit just 15 of 47 (31.9 percent) from the field, including 3 of 20 three-pointers. But it was the defense U of L coach Rick Pitino said was "outstanding," limiting Cleveland State to 13 of 52 from the field.
U of L had two players in double figures with Montrezl Harrell leading the way with 15 points and 13 rebounds, while Chris Jones had 11 points. Chinanu Onuaku added two points, nine rebounds and seven blocked shots, while Terry Rozier chipped in nine points, 11 rebounds and two steals for the Cardinals.
The win was No. 700 for Rick Pitino. One of five active coaches in the Naismith Hall of Fame - four in the Atlantic Coast Conference - Pitino is 700-245 overall and 346-117 in 14 seasons with the Cardinals.
U of L athletic director Tom Jurich presented Pitino with a plaque after the game as the fans celebrated and were treated to a highlight video.
"You know, I hope I'm as lucky to 800, because I just remember as if it was yesterday, Tom handing me a picture of 600 ... as if it was yesterday," Pitino said. "I know time flies by when you get old, but they won the most games in the history of Louisville. It happened so quick from six to seven. I just hope I'm as blessed going from seven to eight. I doubt that could ever happen but I would love to see it happen because it means you're winning. I don't think there's as much significance personally for me but the significance I take away is that senior class last year, how many games they won. And I was the beneficiary today."
PLAYER OF THE GAME
It wasn't a great night for anybody but Montrezl Harrell had a big hand in the Cardinals' being able to pull this one off.
Sure, Harrell had 15 points and 13 rebounds. He was 6 of 11 from the field and 3 of 9 from the free-throw line, while also blocking three shots.
But he also pulled the team together.
Pitino said he wasn't happy with the way the team played selfishly and pouted in the first half. Harrell pulled his teammates together just before the second half on the court and gave the Cardinals a little pep talk.
Harrell then played hard and intense in the second half.
BIG SHOT OF THE GAME
While it never really felt like Cleveland State was going to ever take the lead from the Cardinals, the Vikings just kept hanging around.
But Chris Jones gave the Cardinals a little breathing room with his only three-pointer of the night, a shot off an assist from Terry Rozier with 5:29 left.
The shot gave the Cardinals a 41-33 lead and the Vikings would get no closer.
Jones was 3 of 10 from the field, including 1 of 5 on three-pointers.
THEY SAID IT
U of L coach Rick Pitino
"Well, obviously, it was not a pretty game. What I basically told them at halftime is look guys, you're pouting and complaining to the officials that you're getting fouled. And you're using that as an excuse and it not only looks bad, but that's the way Virginia is going to play. That's the way Pittsburgh is going to play. We watched them play Kentucky last year and with about three minutes to go in the game they had a good chance of winning and then the year before they almost beat Vanderbilt. We know regardless how they are going to play against great teams. He's done a fabulous job with that for a long time. I told the guys is what's going to win it is not your jump shot. What's going to win it is offensive rebounding, you're going to have to make your free throws and you're going to have to play the best defense of your life. It's got to be a Wichita State game. You're not going to win it with offense. It's not Savannah State."
A HISTORICAL NUGGET
In its last two games, Louisville has allowed a total of just 59 points, which is the lowest combined total in back-to-back games for the program since 1937. Savannah State had 26 points and Cleveland State had 33. In '37, the Cardinals held Western Kentucky yo 25 and Eastern Kentucky to 28 - a combined 53 points.
A FEW TIP INS
****In 945 career games as a college coach, Pitino has had just one team score fewer points in a game. He scored 43 at Boston U. in a loss to UCLA in the 1981-82 season.
****Louisville extended its home winning streak against non-conference foes to 30 games dating back to December 2011.
****U of L improved to 26-2 record in the month of November in the last five seasons.
****The game marked the lowest point total for Louisville since a 67-44 loss at Temple on Feb. 2, '97. It was the lowest point total at home since a 50-45 loss to Virginia on Feb. 11, '84 and the fewest points in a win since a 42-31 victory over Cincinnati on March 7, 81.
****Louisville had a season-high 11 blocked shots in Wednesday's win, the most since finishing with 14 against Gardner-Webb on Dec. 18, 2010.
****Onuaku finished with nine or more rebounds for the fourth straight game and had a career high seven blocked shots.