LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Rick Pitino took just a moment to savor
his 600th college victory Friday night after Louisville (No. 9 ESPN/USA Today, No. 8 AP) beat
Tennessee-Martin 83-48 in the season opener. The win he's really
looking will come when he wins a second national title.
The 59-year-old Pitino won his first at Kentucky in 1996 and is
the only coach to take three different schools (Providence,
Kentucky and Louisville) to the Final Four. But a return trip to
the national semifinals is not his ultimate goal at Louisville.
"I want to win a championship here badly. Badly," said Pitino,
now in his 11th season with the Cardinals. "It's not just the
Final Four. We have the character, we have the discipline to
someday get that done.
"We've just go to keep recruiting the Chane Behanans."
The McDonald's All-American had 14 points and 12 rebounds in his
debut for Pitino.
"Because let's face it, when you have freshmen like that
there's always the chance you can get to the Final Four and win a
championship," the coach said.
Louisville jumped out to an early lead behind the full-court
press that has sparked so many of Pitino's victories. Louisville
caused 13 first-half turnovers that led to 18 points.
The Cardinals' pressure sparked a five-minute 15-2 run less than
four minutes into the game that set the tone and put Louisville up
25-7 with 11:05 left in the first half. The Cardinals forced five
of their 21 turnovers during the stretch.
Point guard Peyton Siva said the Louisville pressure wore down the Skyhawks.
"We got them tired and they're a great shooting team," Siva
said. "They shot a lot of short shots from 3. It just helped us,
getting out on the break."
The Cardinals exhibited another hallmark of Pitino's style:
willingness to pass the basketball. Louisville racked up 20 assists
on 31 field goals. The Cardinals were fifth in the NCAA in assists
last year with 17.4 a game.
"We played very unselfishly and very intense defense. We did an
excellent job of sharing the basketball," Pitino said.
Siva had nine assists, one off his career high, and added 10
points. Kyle Kuric finished with 14 points, all in the first half.
Kuric's strong start put Louisville, which never trailed, up 47-23
at the half.
Mike Liabo had 15 points and four assists for the Skyhawks.
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Maryland point guard Melo Trimble has withdrawn from the NBA draft and will return to College Park for his junior season, sources told ESPN.
Louisville's Chinanu Onuaku, who recently underwent a medical procedure to correct a heart rhythm issue detected during the combine, will keep his name in the NBA draft pool.
Andrew White III will return to the Nebraska men's basketball team next season after removing his name from the NBA draft.
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