November 20, 2014

Rick Pitino knows it can be difficult to draw much of substance from early season games in which his team holds a substantial physical advantage.

Whether that's again the case Friday night for No. 7 Louisville when it hosts Marshall remains to be seen, but one thing Pitino is gathering is confidence in his point guard.

Chris Jones had 10 points, six rebounds and five assists in 22 minutes of Monday's 88-39 blowout of Jacksonville State.

"It all stems from Chris Jones' play," Pitino said of the Cardinals' ball movement. "He kept getting rebounds on missed shots and making great passes. I thought that he was brilliant tonight. ... It's tough to tell a lot of good things because we physically overmatched them. But the passing in the first half was brilliant and really pleasing to watch."

Preseason All-American Montrezl Harrell again led the Cardinals with 15 points, guard Terry Rozier continued a strong start to the season with 13 on 5-of-7 shooting and center Chinanu Onuaku had 12 and 10 rebounds.

Harrell didn't arrive at Louisville in 2012-13 with a leading role, but started all 37 games last season and will be leaned on more heavily in 2014-15. That's the kind of progression Pitino would ideally like to take with Onuaku, though he's made it clear to the 6-foot-10 freshman that it won't happen in even their toughest games.

"'We wanted to play you 12 to 16 minutes this year, bring you along slowly, and get you ready by sophomore year but we don't have that luxury. I need you to be a killer out there, and I need you to do it now. I've got to have you become a big-time player in your freshman year,'" Pitino said he told Onuaku. "And I thought tonight, from an effort standpoint, he was a big-time player, even though we overmatched them physically."

Pitino also lauded Onuaku's passing, but the collective ball movement hasn't resulted in much in the way of 3-point shooting. Louisville is at 26.2 percent after going 5 of 26 against Jacksonville State.

They've made up for it at the other end, limiting opponents to 20.5 percent from beyond the arc and 34.3 percent total from the floor.

Jacksonville State's 14-for-50 shooting mark allowed for a 60-26 Louisville advantage on the boards, its highest rebound total since 2004-05.

Louisville now turns its attention to a sixth straight 3-0 start. The Cardinals have won the last six meetings with Marshall and all seven at home, the latest being an 80-66 win in 2010-11.

The Thundering Herd (3-0) are off to their best start since winning their first five in 2011-12. They had a slightly less dominant showing against Jacksonville State with a season-opening 74-55 win last Friday, beat Savannah State by 19 two days later and tuned up for Louisville with Tuesday's 87-65 home win over West Virginia Tech of the NAIA.

Ryan Taylor had 25 points and eight rebounds, but 24 turnovers disrupted the Herd's flow.

"If we can get our tempo going, it will pay dividends for us," coach Dan D'Antoni said. "There are many styles to win a basketball game; whatever you choose, you have to be really good at it and impose your style on the other team."

Top 25 squads haven't been entirely unbeatable for Marshall, though they've been a rarity on its schedule. The Herd have won four of 20 such matchups since the 1997-98 season.

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