The Hall of Fame coach had his team primed and motivated, no chance of a let down, prepared for an all-out war against a team that Rick Pitino had described as dangerous, capable of pulling an upset.
The coach was so convincing that Missouri State never had a chance to get going with the University of Louisville displaying one of its most aggressive defensive efforts of the young season, overpowering the awe-struck visitors, 90-60.
What the visitors will probably remember most is the vision of Montrezl Harrell dunking the ball time and time again, involved in every battle on the boards, and challenging one shot after another. Hanging from the rim with that giant smile, a player who has more than his share of fun, creating turmoil, igniting his teammates, delighting the crowd of 21,639. Seventeen points, eight rebounds, two blocks.
Of course, most of the dunks were courtesy of assists from Russ Smith, passing up shots he used to take, looking for creative ways to get the ball to open teammates. Nobody ever know what to expect when he drives the lane, maybe not even him. In and out of traffic, finding people from improbably spots on the floor. Take the assists for granted, however, and he’s going to the basket. Eleven points to go with eight assists.
Terry Rozier starting again and clearly becoming more comfortable with the college game, a natural shooter, at ease beyond the arc and beneath the basket. The move where he charges the lane and spins for a shot is going to challenge a lot of defenders. He’s not going to back off after shooting, wanting that ball back again. Eight rebounds, 11 points.
The play of the night that half court pass from Stephan Van Treese to Chane Behanan for a thunderous dunk, an unlikely combination that had some fans shaking their heads in disbelief. Van Treese bringing back memories of Westley Unseld on that one.
Pitino pulling those strings, savoring every moment on the bench.