Palacios helps Cards cruise past Kentucky Wesleyan

Juan Palacios started strong, scoring 10 first half points, helping the Cardinals defeat Kentucky Wesleyan 81-51 on Wednesday night in Freedom Hall.

While it was just an exhibition against Division II Kentucky Wesleyan, highly regarded freshman Juan Palacios started his collegiate career in impressive fashion, helping the Cardinals build a large first half lead and eventual 81-51 win on Wednesday night.

The first five minutes of the contest moved along at a sluggish pace, with Louisville only mustering an 8-2 lead, but following the first media timeout, three-pointers by Francisco Garcia and Larry O'Bannon helped jumpstart the Cardinals offense.

Three consecutive baskets by Palacios, who admitted his pre-game nervousness following the win, pushed the Cardinals ahead 20-7 with 12:24 remaining in the first half.

"I'm not going to lie, before the game I was kind of nervous," said Palacios, who played his first game as a Cardinal in front of 18,223 fans. "I didn't know what to expect. Once I was on the court everything became business."

"He's a real good basketball player," said head coach Rick Pitino following the game. "He's a terrific freshman. He's a bright young talent."

Ellis Myles first field goal since being hurt late in the 2002 season and a steal and layup by Brad Gianiny and a dunk by Palacios helped the home team build a 32-14 advantage with less than five minutes left in the first frame. A three-pointer by Brandon Jenkins and a dunk by Otis George gave the Cardinals a 39-21 lead at the break.

Palacios paced the Cardinals during the opening half with 10 points, while Garcia and Dean each added six. Palacios and O'Bannon led U of L with four rebounds apiece.

The Cardinals opened the second half with four consecutive baskets, including a three-pointer by Dean to widen the gap to 48-21.

Following a Kentucky Wesleyan run that cut the Cardinals lead to 48-27, a steal and dunk by Lorenzo Wade sparked a 13-4 run.

Louisville would coast the rest of the way and two late Brad Gianiny three-pointers helped give the Cardinals the final 30-point margain.

"We'll have a pretty good basketball team when we're healthy and when we get Brian Johnson back we can get a little more aggressive inside," said Pitino. "Tonight we were just trying to be basic and not show a whole lot."

Palacios, who saw 23 minutes of action, added four points in the second half to finish as the teams leading scorer with 14, while Garcia added 12 and O'Bannon finished with 11. Ellis Myles, along with O'Bannon, lead the team with eight rebounds, while also dishing out a team high five assists.

The Cardinals will next hit the hardwood in Hawaii when they face BYU-Hawaii to open the season on November 20th.

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