LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- As Louisville strives to reach the high level of performance and consistency achieved by last year's championship squad, the Cardinals also know that getting there will take time with a bunch of new faces.
Wednesday night's game against Missouri-Kansas City could be considered a small step in that process.
The No. 7 Cardinals used contributions from veterans and newcomers to get the job done in a 90-62 win over Missouri-Kansas City. Montrezl Harrell scored 14 points to lead five Louisville players in double figures.
Facing first-year UMKC coach Kareem Richardson, Louisville reminded the former Cardinals assistant what he left behind to take the job with the Kangaroos. A year after they beat UMKC 99-47, the Cardinals (7-1) controlled the game throughout and steadily pulled away in the second half.
"Sometimes, you don't look at what we're doing because everybody's so focused on last year, which is where we need to get to because we were so successful," Cardinals senior guard Russ Smith said. "It's going to take some time. It's a tough, empty space to fill, but I think we'll get there."
As Louisville continues to learn how to replace point guard Peyton Siva and center Gorgui Dieng, it had some things to feel good about.
The Cardinals manhandled UMKC 44-24 in the paint, forced 20 turnovers that led to 29 points and outrebounded the Kangaroos 49-29, grabbing 22 on the offensive end.
Chane Behanan came off the bench for 11 points and 11 rebounds. Chris Jones, Smith and Luke Hancock each added 10 points and combined for five of Louisville's 10 3-pointers. The Cardinals shot 33 of 77 from the field (43 percent).
Nelson Kirksey and Martez Harrison had 14 points apiece for UMKC (1-6), which shot 23 of 50 (46 percent) and was 5 of 17 from long range but were never in a game that matched Richardson against Louisville counterpart Rick Pitino, with whom he spent last season during the team's national championship run.
The Kangaroos were consoled with shooting fairly well against a team that prides itself on defense. That fact bothered Pitino and illustrated his belief of how far the Cardinals have to go to match last year's standard.
"We did some things well tonight and some things we did not do," the coach said. "We pressed well, got a lot of deflections. We just got beat off of the dribble quite a bit. That is probably our biggest weakness to date. ... We have got to correct that the next few days, because this team was obviously very inferior to our athletic ability."
Louisville nonetheless helped Pitino improve to 34-9 against teams coached by former assistants such as Richardson, 39. Though Pitino supported his desire to be a head coach, he also noted the huge challenge he faced in starting his career with a team that was 8-24 last season.
Compounding Richardson's task is blending in six freshmen and three transfers, two of whom must sit out this season due to NCAA rules. Things got even tougher for UMKC late in the first half when starting guard Aaron Washington injured his right knee going for a loose ball.
The senior went to the locker room at halftime on crutches with the knee wrapped in ice and did not return.
The Kangaroos were down 43-27 at that point, shooting a decent 46 percent from the field (11 of 24) and only four points shy of the Cardinals in the paint (18-14). That was the only area in which UMKC stayed close to the defending champions, who took a plodding approach in pulling away from a team they beat by 52 points here nearly a year ago.
"Obviously, going up against a caliber team like Louisville has was certainly a challenge for us," Richardson said. "I was really pleased with our guys' effort. That was one of the main things we wanted to come in and play hard.
"But I'll tell you, that Louisville team, they're going to be good -- not going -- they are very good. Despite what Coach may think and that (North) Carolina loss, they have enough talent, enough depth, to really make a run at it again. I know a lot of things got to go the right way, but they're certainly good."
Freshman guard Terry Rozier started in place of Smith, a senior, and quickly hit a 3-pointer to spark a Louisville outside game that UMKC couldn't match. The Cardinals shot 6 of 17 from long range in the first half while the Kangaroos missed all five attempts, helping provide a cushion that reached 23 late in the first half despite 15-of-39 shooting (39 percent).