The College of Charleston's 70-48 loss at No. 3 Louisville was much different than last season's lopsided defeat even though the score doesn't show it.
Unlike the 80-38 loss at Charleston last season, the Cougars kept it close against the defending national champions through the first half and trailed 29-27. Louisville didn't establish a comfortable lead until late in the second half, outscoring Charleston 22-3 over the final 6:41 to pull away on Saturday.
"Obviously, the final score was not indicative of the game," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "Charleston played great. With a pressing team, you have one or two runs and that can happen positively for you."
Bright spots for the Cougars included the play of freshman guards Canyon Barry and Joe Chealey.
Chealey had eight points and three assists but committed seven turnovers. Barry, a 6-foot-6 redshirt freshman and the youngest son of NBA Hall of Famer Rick Barry, led the Cougars with 10 points and shot 4 of 9 from the field.
"Canyon Barry made a ton of basketball plays," Charleston coach Doug Wojcik said. "Joe Chealey had no problem with the ball. No one took the ball from him. Where he had issues is with his passing at times, maybe jumping the pass. They're just going to learn as we go, which is great."
Barry's college career got off to an emphatic start as his first basket was a 3-pointer. He made another key 3-pointer that tied it at 18 midway through the first half.
"It was great to come out here," Barry said. "It's awesome. What more could you want for your first college game against one of the best teams in the country? I thought we had a good first half. Everyone played well. We just didn't convert in the second half."
Wojcik said he's never had a team compete against a top five team as hard as this one. The Cougars made a statement with today's game as they embark on their first season in the Colonial Athletic Association.
"I know this: That score around the country on the ticker on a lot of phones for a long time today was pretty good for us," Wojcik said.
Preseason All-America Russ Smith led Louisville with 21 points and five assists. His new backcourtmate Chris Jones, last season's junior college player of the year, added 12 points and five assists.
Charleston trailed 48-45 after Barry hit a 17-footer with 6:55 to play. Then Smith asserted himself, hitting two free throws and driving to find forwards Montrezl Harrell and Wayne Blackshear for easy baskets that gave the Cardinals a 54-45 lead with 5:05 left. Charleston scored again with 2:42 remaining, making it 61-47 and ending a 13-0 Louisville run.
Louisville raised its third national championship banner to the rafters before the game.
Tied at 29 with 19:13 left, Barry missed two free throws — shot underhanded like his father — that would have put the Cougars ahead before a 9-0 Louisville run made it 38-29 with 15:30 to play.
Charleston kept it close until Louisville unleashed one of its pressure-fueled spurts late in the half, so evident during last season's championship run.
Louisville shot just 38 percent from the field (26 of 68). Wayne Blackshear, who led the Cardinals with 18 points in last season's matchup, missed his first 11 shots before hitting a jumper from the right baseline with 9:04 left. He finished with 11 points on 3-of-14 shooting and six rebounds.
Associated Press freelance writer J.J. Hysell contributed to this report.