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Louisville coach Rick Pitino has warned his team that opening-round NCAA opponent Jacksonville State is "very experienced"

Louisville coach Rick Pitino has warned his team that opening-round NCAA opponent Jacksonville State is "very experienced."

University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino is very familiar with his team's first-round NCAA opponent - Jacksonville State - because the school's first-year head coach is Ray Harper.

Pitino said he has "so much respect" for the former Western Kentucky coach.

"Ray's a terrific coach," Pitino said. "Every step along the way, I've got great respect for Ray. Great guy, terrific coach."

The two coaches went head-to-head three times while Harper was at WKU and Pitino won all three but the U of L coach noted that Harper has "a little better team than the Western teams we faced."

The Gamecocks (20-14) are making their first trip to the NCAA Tournament but Pitino said he knows they are "experienced." Jacksonville State beat top-seeded Belmont and then second-seeded UT-Martin to win the OVC Tournament title.

Malcolm Drumwright (12.6 points) and Erik Durham (11.1) are the leading scorers for the Gamecocks.

"We know we're going to play a very experienced team in Jacksonville State," Pitino said. "They weren't playing great basketball early on with a new coach coming in. We're quite familiar with him; he's quite familiar with us. But they have really great shooters at the one, two and three. And their small forward, at one point this season, three-quarters of the way, was shooting better than 50 percent from the three-point line, and still shooting a great percentage, shooting 48 percent right now, and takes a lot of them.

"And they're very strong with a 7-footer at the five, and a two outstanding fours. So they have a deep, very talented, experienced basketball team. And we look forward to this game, as well as to heading to Indianapolis and having a bus ride instead of a flight."


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