Thanks to Louisville’s injury woes, Rick Pitino was only able to play eight players against the 2011 NCAA DII Champion Bellarmine Knights.
Louisville struggled to produce offensively without Junior point guard Peyton Siva. Siva’s uncanny ability to penetrate opposing defenses was sorely missed, as backups Russ Smith and Elisha Justice couldn’t provide consistent passing.
Although the Cards struggled, some heroes did emerge. Forward Jared Swopshire posted an impressive 14 points against the Knights. Swopshire’s performance silenced some doubts after missing last year with a groin injury.
Freshman Chane Behanan also had an impressive night with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Behanan continues to impress Cards fans, and his impact on the season will be huge. Behanan is proving even in the preseason, that he’s the most complete freshman Pitino has ever coached. Behanan will be at the top of many highlight reels for the months to come.
Bellarmine was very impressive in their KFC Yum! Center debut. Coach Scott Davenport’s Knights held their own well with the Cards, cutting the Louisville lead down multiple times. Despite their best efforts, even UofL’s decimated reserve team was able to outlast the upstart Knights.
However, the biggest question surrounding the game still remains: Can the Cards survive without Peyton Siva?
Pitino can’t expect his starting point guard to play 40 minutes a game every night, and until ineligible Kevin Ware returns to the lineup in January, the position will continue to be weak.
Russ Smith certainly isn’t the answer. Despite his 13 points, Smith rushed possessions, had multiple traveling violations, and at times tossed-up the ball praying it would happen to sail into the basket (although it worked a few times.) Smith even shied away from the point in the closing minutes of the game.
Kyle Kuric even had a weak game. The senior forward was two for seven from the field, and passed up on some open shots.
Very unlike the King.
The Cardinals have tons to tweak before officially opening up their season against Tennessee Martin next Friday. Although, the Knights are perhaps the best competition the Cards will see until they visit Butler on Nov 19.
Preseason or not, Rick Pitino knows that his decimated squad got lucky Thursday night.