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The defending National Champion and current third-ranked Louisville Cardinals got their exhibition season underway Tuesday as they turned back the third-ranked team in NCAA Division II, Kentucky Wesleyan, 115-67 at the Yum Center.
Playing against competition other than themselves for the first time, the Cards got a chance to see in person and up close what everyone has been talking about during the off-season: How much closer that the officials are going to call the games this season?
They found out immediately as a combined of 64 fouls were called -- 41 against the Panthers.
The Cardinals were shooting the bonus before the first television timeout.
Louisville failed to take full advantage of the situation as it made only 32-of-56 free throws.
Louisville coach Rick Pitino was more than pleased with the experience that the game provided.
â€œWell, I think you are going to see the way they are going to call it," he said. "We knew it was going to happen and our starters did a very good job of taking advantage of the new way they are going to referee, as well as defensively not fouling. When we subbed a lot is when we fouled much more. Obviously, we didn’t make our free throws as much, but that will come with a lot of work.
"With the exception of the offensive player throwing his body into defensive player, which is the way the game should be called, I didn’t have a complaint because that is the way it us going to be called now.
Pitino believes the calls will simply take an adjustment.
"You may say that it will be a long game, but no, they will adjust," he added. "That is the exact way it happened in the NBA. Everyone will adjust to it and you will have freedom of movement, but they are not going to let you bump the guy and stop his progress, and you are going to get used to it. We took great advantage of that tonight offensively and we were ready for that.
Montrezl Harrell led five Cardinals in double figures with 20 points, despite being the biggest offender at the foul line, making just 2-of-11.
Freshman Terry Rozier had 18 points and nine rebounds. Russ Smith added 17 points, Chris Jones finished with 16 and Anton Gill 13.
Rozier, Jones and Gill are all first-year players. Rozier had signed with the Cardinals last season but failed to qualify. Jones is a junior and last season was the Junior College "Player Of The Year" at Northwest Florida St.College. Gill is another freshman. Rozier ans Gill both attended Hargrave Military Academy.
After trailing 28-22 on the boards at the half, Louisville won the rebounding battle 51-41.
"I've always been a good rebounder," Rozier said. "My mama and high school coach always told me that it was a way to see how tough I was."
Louisville led only 11-9 at the 14:41 mark of the first half before going on a 20-3 run in which Harrell had six points, including two poster-quality dunks.
The Cardinals led 49-33 at halftime.
Kentucky Wesleyan was led in scoring by Ken-Jah Bosley with 21 points. Lonnie Hayes added 12 points.
â€œWe got behind and I thought we fought," Panthers coach Happy Osborne said. "We fought back. We came into the second half down 16. Honestly, I’m not surprised. We have only been at this for two weeks and it's a new system with a new coach, new assistant coaches and new players. We've got a chance to be a pretty good basketball team, but we've got to block out better. ... There is so much that we've got to work on."
Louisville will play one more exhibition when it hosts Pikeville on Nov. 6. The Cardinals open the regular season on Nov. 9 when they host College of Charleston.