Dean drains Delaware State in NIT opener

Louisville senior guard Taquan Dean connected on seven three-pointers in the Cardinals 71-54 win over Delaware State in NIT action at Freedom Hall on Friday night...

With hopes of reaching Madison Square Garden in New York City one more time, Louisville senior Taquan Dean led the Cardinals to a 71-54 win over Delaware State in NIT action at Freedom Hall on Friday night.

Dean connected on seven three-pointers to lead all scorers with 21 points and his 9 rebounds tied sophomore Juan Palacios for the game-high. For just the fifth time this season, the Cardinals, who improved to 19-12 overall, shot better than 50% from the field.

"We are excited about the way we played basketball tonight," said U of L head coach Rick Pitino following the game. "We did a lot of good things. We moved the basketball well. This team has only given up 70 points two times the whole year. As you all know, they play a real Murderers Row. I have never seen such a non-conference schedule that these guys have played. We played second half defense extremely. With the exception of some of the three point shots in the second half, we did play terrific defense. We rebounded well and we played awesome intensity and that is what I wanted to see."

Fueled by three-pointer's from Dean and Chris Current, as well as six early points by center Terrance Farley to open the game, the Cardinals built an early 18-3 advantage.

"We're not a team that's going to come back from that type of deficit," said Delaware State head coach Greg Jackson. "We played catchup the whole ball game and never really got a chance to get into our gameplan, but give them credit, they cam out with a lot of fire, not being able to make the NCAA Tournament and coming in here and playing with a lot of passion. They deserved to win the basketball game."

The Cardinals used their size advantage to win the battle on the boards by 13 and outscored the visiting Hornets 30-18 inside the paint.

Up next for the Cardinals is a Monday evening date with Clemson, who defeated Louisiana Tech for the right to travel to Louisville for the second round matchup.

"Clemson is a pressing team," said Pitino of the ACC program. "They press every bucket and we've got to be ready for that."

While Friday night's contest wasn't the usual sold-out Freedom Hall, Rick Pitino credited the 14,132 on hand for helping the Cardinals start so strongly in team's NIT opener.

"These are special fans," said Pitino. "That was a great 14,000 fans - they were terrific. The NIT is a chance for some of our fans who don't have season tickets to help our team, which they did tremendously. I think our guys responded like there was a lot at stake, because there is a lot at stake."

Tip-off for the Louisville - Clemson game is set for 7:00 p.m.

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