It was a tale of two halves for the Louisville Cardinals men's basketball team on Monday night.
The Cardinals came out looking sharp and intense, opening up a 37-point lead late in the first half against Bellarmine. The Cardinals coasted in the second half and came away with a 81-60 victory before 16,437 fans at the KFC Yum Center.
"Well, if we could duplicate the first half we could be a pretty good basketball team," U of L coach Rick Pitino said. ". . . If we can put together two halves like the first half, we'll be a pretty good basketball team, but we didn't and it's a credit to Bellarmine fighting and fighting.
"We're still adjusting to a new style. We're not in the greatest run-and-press shape, but hopefully we'll get there."
Louisville had four players in double figures with Deng Adel and Donovan Mitchell leading the way with 13 apiece.
The Cardinals had 11 players score in the contest.
Three Key Takeaways
1. Communication a must on defense: Pitino stressed that his team needed to improve on the man-to-man defense after last week's exhibition against Kentucky Wesleyan and after the first half things looked better.
But the Cardinals reverted back to the mistakes in the second half. For the most part, communication it seems is what's lacking with the defensive woes. The Cardinals are not making the correct rotations and are getting beat off the bounce.
U of L is expected to play 90 percent man-to-man this season, unlike recent years when it was mostly the matchup zone.
"We just have to keep working," Donovan Mitchell said. "But yes, it's all communication."
2. Points coming from a lot of places: Once again, the game proved the Cardinals shouldn't have a problem scoring this season. They scored 49 points in the first half and ended with 11 players in the scoring column.
In the two exhibition games, U of L has had six different players score in double figures.
It's still hard to tell what player will lead this team in scoring.
3. Rebounding a key: The Cardinals have enough bigs that rebounding shouldn't be an issue but they only outrebounded the much smaller Knights 37-34 and Jaylen Johnson had 11 of those boards.
Johnson had seven offensive rebounds on the night, but Pitino said he needs more off the defensive end from Anas Mahmoud. He only has one defensive rebound in the two exhibitions combined.
Pitino also expects the guards - Mitchell and Adel - to rebound at a higher clip.
MVP of the game
Let's give it to Tony Hicks for this game.
The graduate transfer from Penn looked so much more relaxed than he did last week against Wesleyan, his first game action in more than a year. He was comfortable and he was playing fast.
Hicks went 5-for-8 from the field and finished with 12 points, two rebounds, two assists and two steals in 12 minutes.
A super fast guard, Hicks has a chance to be a special addition for the Cardinals.
*****The Cardinals held Bellarmine to 3 of 16 from the field in the first half, while making 18 of 34 - including 7 of 14 three-pointers. U of L finished 9 of 19 from three-point range and 31 of 65 overall.
*****After 21 assists on 39 made field goals against Kentucky Wesleyan, the Cardinals had just 11 assists on 31 made baskets in this one. U of L had just three assists in the second half against the Knights.
*****Junior center Matz Stockman didn't play for the Cardinals. He was the only scholarship player on the roster to not get into the game.
Quote of the night
Rick Pitino, Louisville coach on Deng Adel and Donovan Mitchell rebounding:
"I don't think they're setting in Westley Unseld records. I don't think Deng had a rebound at half time and I don't think he had a steal and I don't think he had an assist. He was very much similar to (U of L SID) Kenny Klein - sitting there doing nothing."
Next up . . .
Well, it's the start of the regular season.
The Cardinals will begin a touch stretch with the regular-season opener on Friday night at the Yum Center against Evansville. The Purple Aces went 25-9 last season out of the Missouri Valley Conference.
"(Playing Bellarmine) is tough especially when bigs are defending guards," Pitino said. "It's tough on us, it's tough on Mangok (Mathiang), and they do a great job of that. It's also a great defensive practice for us because Evansville will screen more but they do the same things in the terms of passing. William and Mary does it in a different fashion, so their talent level is much higher, so you can picture how good they are going to be, but those two teams are just like Bellarmine in terms of ball movement, and screening. Evansville does a great job of screening and moving."