LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Savannah State missed so many shots and committed so many turnovers against sixth-ranked Louisville that the question was if it would score against the Cardinals rather than when.
The Tigers eventually did, though not very often.
Montrezl Harrell had 15 points and nine rebounds, and the Cardinals jumped to a 29-0 lead over the first 15:58 against Savannah State en route to an 87-26 blowout Monday night.
In fact, things went so bad for the Tigers that Louisville coach Rick Pitino felt somewhat sorry for them.
“I thought our zone-man was very good, and the other team just had one of those nights where they could not hit a shot,” Pitino said after the Cardinals (4-0) held Savannah State (2-3) to 19.6 percent shooting (10 of 51) and forced 26 turnovers for 22 points.
“They are not as bad as they played tonight. It was just one of those unfortunate things for them.”
The Cardinals had a lot to do with that misfortune, and for a while they seemed headed toward to pitching the NCAA’s first shutout in a half since Duke led North Carolina 7-0 at halftime on Feb. 24, 1979, according to STATS. But Saadiq Muhammad’s free throw with 4:02 remaining before halftime provided the Tigers’ first point and Khalen Pinkett’s jumper with 1:23 left ended their 0-for-23 shooting drought.
Savannah State trailed 41-7 at the break behind 2-of-26 shooting (7.7 percent) as Louisville allowed its fewest points in a half since 1972-73, the farthest back the school could check statistics. San Francisco (December 2010) and Cincinnati (March 1981) each scored 11 points.
“We thought we were going to keep them down to zero for the first half, but we didn’t,” said Cardinals forward Wayne Blackshear, who scored 13 points. “We always talk about it in the game. We always say. ‘Don’t let them score here or something.’ “
The Tigers’ total still was the fewest by a Cardinals opponent since a 20-13 win over Georgetown College on Feb. 4, 1947.
Terry Rozier had 11 and Chinanu Onuaku 10 with nine rebounds for the Cardinals.
Louisville’s shellacking marked a huge setback for the Tigers, who entered with a two-game winning streak and began intent on slowing down Louisville with a scrappy trap defense.
Instead, Savannah State encountered resistance throughout from Louisville, which pressed, trapped and cut off the basket in blocking six shots and forcing 16 turnovers in the first half.
“I don’t think I did a great job of trying to get my guys into the first four minutes of the game,” said Savannah State coach Horace Broadnax, whose starting lineup featured two freshmen and two sophomores. “We needed to drop a bucket down and kind of break the ice a little bit. It’s time to move on.”
Alante Fenner’s eight points led Savannah State while Pinkett added five.
Louisville made 31 of 59 from the field (53 percent) and dominated every category.
Savannah State’s non-league schedule includes five Power Five conference schools and three teams that reached last season’s NCAA tournament. Besides Louisville (ACC), the Tigers play at Indiana (Big Ten), Miami (ACC), Kansas State (Big 12) and LSU (Southeastern).
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Pitino made a point of saying the team won’t watch tape of this game to keep them grounded for Wednesday’s game with Cleveland State. “It will be false security,” the coach said. “You get really nothing out of this and you feel bad for the other team more than anything else.”
Savannah State: Fenner appeared to have a clear path to the Tigers’ first basket on a runout after Brian Pearson’s steal, only to have his layup rejected by Mangok Mathiang. … Muhammad’s free throw drew applause from 19,514.
Louisville: All but three players scored as Pitino went to his bench early in both halves. … The Cardinals’ largest margin of victory is 72 points against Georgetown College (99-27) on Dec. 2, 1944.
Savannah State: Visits Jacksonville State (Alabama) on Friday.
Louisville: Hosts Cleveland State on Wednesday.
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