Nov. 16, 2010
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Selected Players' Reactions | Rick ~nbsp>Pitino Audio
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Rakeem Buckles scored 17 points and Louisville christened its new downtown arena with an 88-73 upset of No. 16 Butler on Tuesday night.
Terrence Jennings added 13 points and eight rebounds while Elisha Justice and Preston Knowles added 12 points each as the Cardinals withstood a late surge by the Bulldogs to open the KFC Yum! Center with a win.
Shelvin Mack tied a career-high with 25 points for Butler (1-1) and Matt Howard had 23 points and nine rebounds, but the Bulldogs shot just 35 percent from the field and couldn't overcome a 24-point deficit.
Louisville coach Rick Pitino has called this a "bridge year" for the Cardinals, who lost three starters to graduation, one to the NBA and another to injury.
He's said he's not sure when the Cardinals will reach the other side, but they took a couple of tentative steps against Butler.
The Bulldogs return four starters from last season's team that advanced to the national title game, but looked rattled at times in front of a sometimes frenzied crowd eager for the Cardinals to debut the sparkling 22,000-seat facility in style.
Pitino has promised a makeover of sorts, pledging to return to the frenetic pace he used to lead Providence and Kentucky to prominence earlier in his career.
The Cardinals weren't always crisp but they pushed the ball relentlessly, particularly in the first half. Though the offense broke down at times the Cardinals were never in any real danger.
Butler never led and trailed 50-26 midway through the second half before eventually climbing within 68-57 on a basket by Howard with 3:17 remaining.
Buckles responded with a 3-pointer and Louisville's defense produced a couple of key stops while Mack sat on the bench battling cramps.
The teams traded free throws and baskets the rest of the way before Louisville's Mike Marra sealed it with an emphatic one-handed dunk in the final seconds.
It was the signature moment of a night that belonged to the Cardinals.
Louisville ripped off the first eight points and just kept going, getting contributions from unlikely places.
Justice, an eastern Kentucky high school player who signed as a walk-on and only received a scholarship after a handful of departures in the offseason, filled in capably when Peyton Siva went to the bench in early foul trouble.
Freshman center Gorgui Dieng, a native of Senegal who wasn't cleared by the NCAA to play until a couple of weeks ago, blocked a shot and altered two others. Sophomore forward Stephan Van Treese, a little-used reserve last season, provided an adrenaline shot on defense and ran the floor with ease.
The Bulldogs, which went 12-1 on the road last season, looked intimidated and anxious at times.
Even normally reserved head coach Brad Stevens was not immune to the charged atmosphere, drawing a rare technical foul while watching his team sleepwalk through the first half, but it wasn't enough to wake the Bulldogs out of an extended funk.
Howard collected three fouls in four minutes, the offense struggled to find someone other than Mack to make shots and the Bulldogs were dominated in the lane by the energized Cardinals.
Louisville roared into the half with an 18-point lead, primed to open their new digs the same way they closed Freedom Hall, with an upset over a ranked opponents on national television.