Shaky at the start, No. 3 Louisville outscored College of Charleston 22-3 over the final 6:41 on Saturday to pull away to a 70-48 victory in the first game of its national championship defense.
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 freshman Canyon Barry's 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.
Barry led Charleston with 10 points while Adjehi Baru added eight points and nine rebounds.
Louisville raised its third national championship banner to the rafters before the game.