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Louisville head coach Rick Pitino, right, talks to Grand Canyon guard DeWayne Russell (0) after an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Phoenix. Louisville defeated Grand Canyon 79-70. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
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Louisville head coach Rick Pitino says GCU crowd tougher than Duke, Kentucky

The Grand Canyon University men’s basketball program isn’t eligible for the NCAA Tournament until next season, but they aren’t going to stay quiet while they wait.

Those in attendance for the GCU Havocs student section while their team took on No. 14 Louisville Saturday night kept the noise up, creating an electric atmosphere.

Louisville head coach Rick Pitino, who first became a college basketball head coach in 1978, had high praise for the arena’s noise.

“In college basketball, my 40-plus years, (that) was the toughest crowd I’ve ever faced,” Pitino said. “Awesome.

“You got something special here, really special. When you have this type of enthusiasm, it made us a much better team tonight. Whether we go to Duke, Kentucky, nothing was as tough as that environment tonight.”

GCU Arena was ready for Louisville’s visit, setting an attendance record.

The team played up to the crowd.

Senior guard DeWayne Russell led the charge. He scored 42 points, the most by a GCU player in Division I play. Pitino called it the best guard performance against one of his teams.

He gave the Antelopes a first-half lead over a top-25 ranked team in the country in fashion.

GCU wound up losing the game 79-70 but will have one more chance at pulling off the upset against a highly-regarded college basketball program when they take on Arizona on Dec. 14 in Tucson.

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