PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Rick Pitino empathizes with Temple coach Fran Dunphy.
But the Louisville coach wasn’t going to make things any easier on him.
Montrezl Harrell scored a career-high 22 points and No. 13 Louisville built a 30-point first-half lead en route to an 82-58 victory over Temple on Friday night.
Will Cummings led Temple (6-17, 1-10 American Athletic Conference) with 16 points and Anthony Lee added 14. The Owls shot 37.3 percent from the field to drop their fourth straight game and fall into a tie for last place in the conference with Central Florida.
“They’re coming off a terrific season,” Pitino said. “It’s a rebuilding year. I’ve always said this - Fran Dunphy is one of the premier coaches in our game. He’s going through a tough season but it doesn’t get any better than him. Everyone always asks me to rate the top ten coaches I’ve seen in my life, and I always put him in the top ten in every discussion I have.”
Dunphy’s players could do little to stop the Cardinals, though.
Russ Smith scored 15 points to help Louisville (20-4, 9-2) improve to 7-1 in its last eight games.
Wayne Blackshear finished with 13 points, Luke Hancock scored 11, and Harrell had 10 rebounds and four blocks in the game postponed a day because of a snowstorm.
The Cardinals were coming off a nine-day layoff during which they made an interesting pact.
“We all said, ‘Let’s have some fun. Let’s grow beards until we lose,’” Pitino said. “It’s the first time in my life I’m trying to grow a beard. It’s the first time I looked in the mirror and saw multifaceted hair coming in different colors. We want to have some fun right now. Hopefully we can get on a streak and grow some full beards.”
Hoping for an upset, Temple designated the contest a “White-Out,” distributing 8,000 white T-shirts to fans.
But because of a sparse crowd, a majority of those T-shirts were left on their seats. And the undermanned and overmatched Owls never threatened to upset the defending national champs, committing eight turnovers in the first half and shooting 29 percent from 3-point range for the game.
The Owls have lost 12 of their last 13 games.
“It is frustrating?” Dunphy said. “Yeah it is. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t. But we’ve got to keep plugging away.”
The Cardinals held Dalton Pepper, Temple’s leading scorer, to seven points on 3-for-10 shooting.
Pitino said he instructed his players to “really concentrate on shutting his shot selection down.”
That didn’t surprise Dunphy.
“That’s the way they play,” Dunphy said. “They try to take out the guy they think is the best scorer. So it’s not surprising he would have a bad day.”
Louisville shot over 60 percent in the first half and went on runs of 10-0 and 17-2 to take a 52-25 lead into the break. Both of those spurts were highlighted by alley oops finished by Harrell, who had four dunks in the first half and two more in the second.
Harrell’s sixth dunk came with 11:04 remaining and gave Louisville its largest lead of the game to that point at 73-40. Temple only began to slice into the deficit when the Cardinals emptied their bench.
Harrell’s six dunks were one shy of Louisville’s single-game record set by Pervis Ellison in 1988.
“He’s just got a great basketball body,” Dunphy said. “He was hard for us to guard, no question about it.”
Temple fans did get some good news Friday when it was announced that Owls great Guy Rodgers had been elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. A two-time All-America selection, Rodgers scored 1,767 points in three seasons (1955-58) and led the Owls to two Final Fours (1956, 1958). He will join former Temple coaches John Chaney and Harry Litwack in the Hall of Fame.
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