It was an up-and-down kind of night for the University of Louisville basketball team.
The Cardinals started slow, opened an 18-point lead and then Rick Pitino had to put his starters back in to close out a 77-68 victory over Kentucky Wesleyan before 15,794 fans at the KFC Yum Center.
The Cardinals have now won 31 straight exhibition games, dating back to the 2001 season.
MVP - Damion Lee
The fifth-year senior transfer from Drexel didn't shoot it very well - 6 of 17 - from the field but led the Cardinals in scoring with 19 points and made some other huge contributions in the victory.
Lee, who was fourth in the nation in scoring last season, was 6 of 7 from the free-throw line and had four rebounds, three assists, two steals and one blocked shot in 31 minutes. He played more minutes than anyone else on the roster.
“I know that I personally short-armed a lot of shots,” Lee said. "I pulled the string on a lot of them. That just goes to getting back in the gym, going back to the fundamentals of good form shooting, getting back to the basics.
"We just have to be more confident."
Key run of the game
It was a David Levitch-sparked 12-0 run late in the first half that brought the Cardinals from down two points into a 38-29 lead at halftime.
Levitch hit a three-pointers, had two free throws, a steal and a rebound and then made a behind-the-back bounce pass to Jaylen Johnson for a bucket in the surge.
"I never know when it's going to be my turn," Levitch said. "I just have to be prepared. That's my role."
Levitch, who was not credited for an assist on the Johnson bucket, finished with six points, one rebound and one steal in 14 minutes of action. He was 3 of 4 from the free-throw line.
Shooting woes for Cards
Louisville continues to have some shooting woes heading into the regular season.
The starting backcourt of Damion Lee, Trey Lewis and Quentin Snider shot a combined 10 of 31 from the field, including 4 of 15 from three-point range. Lee was 6 of 17, while Lewis was 2 of 4 and Snider hit just 2 of 10.
As a team, the Cardinals hit 24 of 58 from the field - 41.4 percent - and just 6 of 21 from three-point range.
“We really didn’t get any offense going until we started pressing, which is a good indicator to me of what we have to do going into the Samford game,” Pitino said. "I’m learning about this basketball team and what we need to work on. This is an inexperienced basketball team that learned a lot from these two exhibition games.”
A tough rotation to figure out
Pitino said he's not sure who will start the opener on Friday night.
Anas Mahmoud started the Wesleyan game because of his passing skills, while Chinanu Onuaku also started for the Cardinals.
But Mangok Mathiang logged more minutes - 21 - than both Onuaku and Mahmoud. Jaylen Johnson also had 18 minutes.
Pitino has indicated it will be a game-to-game situation as to which players get the minutes.
It's the start of the regular season on Friday night.
Louisville will host Samford at 7 p.m. in the Yum Center. Samford's head coach is former UK player Scott Padgett.