Close call; Cards edge Tigers, 74-67

Samardo Samuels led Louisville to a 74-67 exhibition win over Georgetown (KY) Saturday afternoon at Freedom Hall.

It wasn't pretty.

It wasn't exciting.

It was an exhibition game.

It was something University of Louisville coach Rick Pitino has come to expect from his team early in the season.

That pretty much sums up the Cardinals' 74-67 win over NAIA's Georgetown College on Saturday afternoon in a grind-it-out exhibition game in front of 17,521 fans at Freedom Hall.

"I'm very excited about the potential of this team, but it must be something with me, my teams just don't start strong," said Pitino, whose team is ranked No. 3 in the preseason rankings of both national polls. "Our teams start slow every year because we do a lot of different things, it takes time to mesh together."

This game took a lot of time. It lasted long than a Halloween hangover (it started a little after 1:30 p.m. and finished after 4 p.m.) and featured 61 fouls, including 36 on Georgetown as freshman center Samardo Samuels nearly single-handedly fouled out four Tigers.

Samuels led Louisville with 20 points, he was just 3 for 10 from the field but 14 of 21 from the free throw line, while fellow freshman Jared Swopshire added 14 points and 11 rebounds. Senior guard Andre McGee chipped in with 10 points.

"It's a good reality check for us, guys can see we're not as good as we think we are," McGee said. "It's a great measuring stick."

One area where the Cards didn't measure up was on the backboards. The smaller Tigers dominated the glass, outrebounding UofL 46-37, including 17- 10 on the offensive end.

Another was free throw shooting. The Cards were 33 of 50 (66 percent) from the foul line.

"It was two fundamental things," Pitino said. "Their starting backcourt had 18 rebounds in the game...and then we go down execute, get fouled and don't make the free throws."

UofL shot just 39.1 percent (18 of 46) from the field and struggled at times to run their offense without three of their key players from last season - senior swingman Terrence Williams, who is out with a knee injury, junior forward Earl Clark, who was in foul trouble, and last year's leader, David Padgett, who sat across from the UofL bench in a courtside seat.

"When our guys are pressured they have to realize David Padgett is not walking through that door to the high post," Pitino quipped, bringing to mind his infamous tirade when he was the coach of the NBA's Boston Celtics.

And it was evident on the court too. After a late turnover Edgar Sosa could be seen yelling at George Goode.

What was good was the effort of the Tigers (1-0), who went 35-1 last season and lost in the NAIA national semifinals before beginning this season with a 133-32 rout of Ohio State-Mansfield 133-32.

"This was an excellent exhibition for us, it showed us where we are," Pitino said. "I think the best thing about this game was the way the Georgetown kids played. They played gritty, they played gutty, they boxed us out."

Vincent Crutcher led Georgetown with 18 points, while David Graham added 16 points.

The Tigers stayed close throughout.

Louisville led 35-30 at halftime thanks to McGee's buzzer-beating three and in spite of the fact that Georgetown outrebounded UofL 24-16, including 9-4 on the offensive end.

In the second half the Tigers continued to hang tough.

The Cards took the lead for good on Swopshire's jumper with 9:03 to play. It was the start of a 9-0 UofL run in which all nine points were scored by freshmen.

"The young guys are doing great, it's our veterans who aren't playing well right now," Pitino said.

Swopshire's basket was followed up by a fast-break dunk by another freshman, Kyle Kuric. Kuric went down hard on the play and did not return.

Post-game x-rays on Kuric's shin were negative. He was diagnosed with a mild high-ankle sprain and bruised lower leg according to UofL sports information director Kenny Klein, who said that Kuric is "day-to-day."

Samuels hit 3 of 4 free throws, then Samuels hit two to give the Cards a 59-51 lead with 7:29 remaining.

Georgetown got within 69-67 inside the final minute, but McGee hit two free throws, Preston Knowles hit one, then Swopshire hit two more.

The Cards continue exhibition play next Saturday at Northern Kentucky University.

"This was a great learning experience," said Clark, who had seven points, five rebounds and five fouls in 21 minutes. "We've just got to get better and rebound."

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