Louisville, KY – A pair of teams fresh off season-opening wins will do battle this afternoon in Louisville, as the hometown Cardinals, ranked ninth nationally, play host to Lamar, a school that boasts the same nickname. This bout is part of the Global Sports Invitational.
Lamar began its season at home against Arkansas State on Friday, and the result was a thrilling 65-62 victory. Pat Knight was making his debut as the head coach of the Cardinals, a team which will obviously be getting more attention after that high profile hire. Knight inherits 10 returning letterwinners, including four starters, from a team that finished 13-17 overall last season and 7-9 in Southland Conference play.
On Friday, Louisville crushed Tennesse-Martin by an 83-48 final, as Rick Pitino became the 38th coach to reach 600 career wins. He is the 15th fastest to reach the milestone and figures to earn plenty more victories this season thanks to a roster full of experienced talent. Last season, UofL finished 25-10 overall and placed third in the Big East Conference standings, but a disappointing showing in the NCAA Tournament left a bad taste in the mouths of the players and coaches alike.
Louisville has won all three of its previous meetings with Lamar.
The Lamar Cardinals' strength is the backcourt, and one man to watch is senior point guard Anthony Miles. He entered Friday's opener just 21 points shy of 1,000 for his career, and he finished with 15 points and seven assists against Arkansas State despite a woeful 3-of-14 shooting effort from the field. Fortunately, one of the three field goals was a driving layup with seven seconds remaining that lifted the Cardinals to victory. Fellow senior Mike James returns after leading the Cards in scoring with 12.5 ppg in 2010-11. James made headlines when he established a new Lamar single-game record of 52 points last year, but he managed just six points on Friday because of a dismal 2-of-11 performance from the floor, including 0-of-6 from behind the arc. Devon Lamb stepped up huge with 13 points and 15 rebounds for Lamar, which shot a mere 34.4 percent form the field and turned the ball over 18 times. Fortunately, the Cardinals forced 18 giveaways and held Arkansas State to 38.9 percent shooting.
Louisville jumped out to a 24-point lead over UT-Martin by intermission of Friday's opener and never looked back. The effort was far from perfect for Pitino's bunch, as they put forth a 57.1 percent shooting effort from the foul line and turned the ball over 19 times. Still, it is hard to get upset about a 35-point victory. Kyle Kuric enters this season as the team's go-to guy at the offensive end of the court, and he got off to a solid start by scoring 14 points on 6-of-12 shooting. Chane Behanan was able to notch 14 points as well, as he hit all six of his shots while ripping down 12 boards. Peyton Siva is a talented guard who posted 10 points and nine assists after averaging nearly double figures in scoring a year ago. The Cardinals connected on 54.4 percent of their field goal attempts against the Skyhawks and finished with a 46-29 rebounding advantage.