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December 19, 2012

COLLEGE HOOPS: Louisville wins battle of Pitinos

LOUISVILLE — A beating like this in any other venue would be considered child abuse.

But all’s fair in college basketball. Even when opposing coaches are father and son.

Such was the case at the Yum! Center Wednesday as fifth-ranked Louisville — coached by Rick Pitino — hosted Florida International, which coached by Richard Pitino.

The Cardinals were not the gracious hosts, coming away with a 79-55 victory.

The game was this season’s Billy Minardi Classic, a game that Louisville plays every year in honor of Rick Pitino’s brother-in-law and Richard’s uncle who died in the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center.

Louisville (10-1) never trailed in the contest, although it was close in the early going, with the Cardinals leading just 7-6 at the first television timeout.

FIU (3-5) stayed to within 21-17 until the Cardinals outscored the Panthers 20-10 the rest of the half for a 41-27 haftime advantage.

Not allowing the Panthers a field goal in the second half until the 13:39 mark, Louisville built their advantage to 54-30 and led by as many as 31 points at 73-42 on a Wayne Blackshear 3-pointer with 6:39 left.

From that point, the elder Pitino cleared the bench as Louisville had tied its season high of 12 made from behind the 3-point arc.

Father and Son matchups happen, but not often in college basketball. At the Division I level, there had been five previous to Wednesday, the last being during the 2000-01 season when Arkansas’s Nolan Richardson Jr. defeated Tennessee State’s Nolan Richardson III, 90-68.

And to listen to both of them afterwards, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

“I didn’t even know he was down there,” said Rick Pitino with a smile. “I was concentarting on getting my team ready. We’re going to be thrown into the fire shortly. There were some things we needed to work on.

“He’s going to be a great coach, but he took a new position and has eight new players. They will be going into Conference USA, which will give him a chance to recruit a better type of player. And he went to work for Billy [Donovan] and came back a much better coach.”

As an assistant, losing has not been the history of the younger Pitino. As an assistant coach since the 2004-05 season, he’s been on only one losing team. During that season, he helped turned around a Duquesne team to a 10-19 record after it won only three games the year before.

“Louisville ... they’re one of the best teams in the country,” Richard Pitino said. “Not only are they great defensively, but when they don’t make the play, they’re wearing on you. They wear you out. This was a great experience for our guys. The key now is that we can turn the page and go.

“Coming into the game, it felt kind of weird and I tried not to think too much about it. But now that it’s over and we got to play in front of all of my family and in honor of Billy, it was great. Dad came down and worked with some of our guys this summer. They love him. But no, I didn’t even know he was down there.”


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