LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Chris Jones and Louisville have done a tremendous job protecting the basketball this season and that's led to easy victories.
The junior committed his second turnover of the season early in the second half of the No. 3 Cardinals 87-48 win over Hartford in the Hall of Fame Tipoff on Tuesday night.
He joked around after the game that they should change the rule for turnovers.
"I think they should change the rules when you try to save the ball off the steal," he said.
The Cardinals, who entered the game second nationally for fewest turnovers per game with 6, had seven on the night compared to Hartford's 25. It's the seventh straight game dating back to last season that the Cardinals have had 10 or fewer — the longest streak in Pitino's 13 seasons with the team.
The junior from Memphis played his first 67 minutes without committing an error before his pass slipped through freshman Anton Gill's hands in Louisville's last game against Cornell. He now has 17 assists in four games, including four Tuesday, compared to his two unfortunate miscues.
His steady play at the point has eased the transition from Louisville legend Peyton Siva, now with the Detroit Pistons, and has earned the trust of Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino.
"I think Chris Jones is a tremendous point guard," Pitino said. "He is very low to the ground and does not make a lot of mistakes."
Pitino, known for his pressure defense, said he has emphasized not giving the ball back to opponents once his club has forced a takeaway.
"One of the points of emphasis this year is we are going to not turn the ball over because we are a possession team," Pitino said. "If you're going to press, you are going to be all over the floor trapping and using that much energy. If you just give it away, all that energy was for naught."
The Cardinals' protective nature continued Tuesday, turning the ball over only twice in the first half. The first came more than 14 minutes into the game when Harrell was tied up under the basket and alternate possession was given to the Hawks. A Russ Smith offensive foul at the 1:54 mark was its only other error in the first half.
Even when Louisville gave the ball to Hartford, they were hustling. Their final turnover came following a Chane Behanan steal when his behind-the-back save from his own corner to keep the ball inbounds hit the Louisville rim and nearly went in.
In addition to committing mistakes, Jones is developing a bond with Louisville forward Montrezl Harrell.
"I got a great feel for Trez," Jones said. "I know I can throw it to the rim and he'll go get it."
Harrell led No. 3 Louisville with 20 points and nine rebounds as Cardinals' string of blowout wins to start the season continued.
He was 9 of 12 from the field with six dunks, one off the school record.
Harrell's string of slams included a slam off Behanan's missed free throw with 4:09 left that put Louisville up 81-46 with 4:11 to play.
Russ Smith added 14 points as the Cardinals (4-0) extended their winning streak to 20 games dating to last season's run to the national title. Jones and reserve Chane Behanan added 11 points apiece.
Louisville shot 50 percent from the field, outrebounded Hartford 35-29.
Mark Nwakamma scored 16 points for the Hawks (2-3), and reserve Yasin Kolo finished with 12.
Louisville jumped on Hartford right at the start, scoring the first eight points of the game and 22 of the first 30. Harrell passed to Wayne Blackshear for a 3-pointer and Terry Rozier converted a layup with 1:42 left in the first half to give the Cardinals a 42-19 lead before leading by 21 at halftime.
The Hawks stayed within reach during the first 10 minutes by hitting 3 of their first 5 3-pointers, clawing back to a 22-11 deficit following Louisville's opening run. But they missed their next 11 from behind the arc before Kolo's triple with 5:01 remaining made it 79-44.
Hartford finished the game 4 of 17 (24 percent) on 3-pointers after hitting a season best 10 of 20 in its win last out against Fairleigh Dickinson. Louisville's Luke Hancock went 2 for 4 as Louisville made 7 of 18 attempts from beyond the arc.
The Hawks saw their winning streak end after beating its last two opponents by double digits. It was their fifth game in 11 nights.
Louisville will play away from home for the first time on Saturday when it travels to Connecticut for two games to conclude the Hall of Fame Tipoff, the first against Fairfield. The Cardinals will then play either Richmond or North Carolina on Sunday.