Basketball is back in the Derby City.
The Louisville Cardinals made sure the most anticipated season in quite some time got off to an appropriate start by scoring 51 second half points and blowing out former assistant coach Steve Masiello's Manhattan team, 79-51.
The Cards were led by Russ Smith, who scored 23 points and snatched five steals to pick things up right where his improbably productive sophomore season left off. Senior captain Peyton Siva helped by scoring 10 points and handing out 10 assists for just the second double-double of his career.
Louisville struggled for long stretches during the first half, due in large part to Gorgui Dieng having to sit on the bench after picking up two early fouls. The Cards were a different team after the break, quickly building on their 28-19 lead and never letting the Jaspers get the advantage back down to single digits.
--I wasn't sure we'd score 51 points in a half all season, so to do it right out of the gate is a pretty encouraging sign.
--After hitting just four total 3-pointer in their two exhibition ganes, the Cards buried eight against Manhattan. They also missed 22, but the vast majority of their attempts were good shots.
--It took a little while for Chane Behanan to get back into the flow of things offensively, but that's to be expected. It was nice to see him attempting to make a statement on the glass, where he led the team with nine rebounds. A nice display of maturity, after a lack of it cost him his starting spot.
--It was also pretty clear that Pitino was going to wait for a timeout to put Chane in because he didn't want him to receive a big ovation from the crowd. Classic Rick.
--The first sub of the season for what many think could be the best Louisville team in alost three decades was Zach Price.
--A few nice glimpses of the new Kevin Ware, who got some early confidence with a steal and a breakaway finish. He then added a nice-looking trey and a great drive to the basket. Kid's got bounce.
--It was good to see Wayne hit his final shot attempt of the game, because that guy has got to get some confidence. This team has no chance of winning a national championship if he's not a big-time factor.
--Rick Ptitino called Russ Smith "unguardable" after the game. If one of us figures how to build a time machine, we could all win a shitload of money from our 2010-selves.
--Nice to see Luke finally hit a couple of outside shots in a row. The one thing he needs to do is adopt a Russ mentality and not let poor shooting nights affect the other aspects of his game.
--This is going to end up looking like a much better win than it was, because Manhattan is going to win a lot of games once it gets George Beamon back in the lineup. They could very easily win the MAAC (they're the preseason favorites), and wins like that are huge difference-makers in computer rankings.
--It's basketball season once again in Louisville.