SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The University of Louisville men's basketball team dropped its first two exhibition games on Tuesday night to start its Aug. 10-17 trip to Puerto Rico.
Drexel transfer Damion Lee showed why he was the nation's fourth-leading scorer at year ago before transferring to Louisville. Lee poured in 36 points, hitting 11-of-18 shots from the field, including 5-of-10 three-pointers, and all nine of his free throw attempts.
"I thought Louisville did an excellent job, then took some ill-advised shots and Puerto Rico's defense played well in the second half," said UofL Coach Rick Pitino, who coached the Puerto Rico National Team while assistant coach Ralph Willard guided both Cardinal squads. Pitino is coaching the Puerto Ricans in two international events this summer, including the 10-team, 2015 FIBA Americas Championship in Mexico City, Mexico on Aug. 31-Sept. 12, where the top two teams qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
"I think you all see what I mean about Damion Lee," said Pitino. "I think this young man had a chance at greatness. This is only one exhibition game, but he's got a great mentality to score without being selfish."
Never miss a local story.
Chinanu Onuaku added 13 points and a game-high 10 rebounds for the Cardinals while Trey Lewis scored 13 points and handed out three assists. Renaldo Balkman led six Puerto Rico players in double figures with 15 points.
Louisville led by as many as 10 points early in the game and held a 38-35 advantage at halftime. Puerto Rico scored 13 straight points during a stretch in the third quarter to take a 54-51 lead and ended the quarter with a 66-59 advantage.
"Puerto Rico started running pure motion in the second half and it really helped us," said Pitino. "We started shooting a high percentage and a lot of good things happened."
The Cardinals young players fell 94-88 to the Puerto Rico Junior Team in the first game of the evening and UofL lost 89-81 to the Puerto Rico National Team in the second game at Jose Miguel Agrelot Coliseum of Puerto Rico.
In the opener, walk-on guard Jay Henderson led the way for the Cardinals with 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field with five rebounds. David Levitch added a team-high eight rebounds and six steals with 10 points. Puerto Rico led by as many as 20 points in the first half, but the Cardinals closed to trail 47-40 at halftime. Santiago Benito led Puerto Rico with 24 points and our steals.
The Cardinals will be back in action with a similar doubleheader on Wednesday evening at the same venue, with the games starting at 5:30 and 8 p.m. The Cardinals' remaining games will be broadcast live through Learfield Sports on WHAS Radio (840 AM) in Louisville. Additionally, barring any local complications, the games will be televised through a live stream with a simple production (not HD) on the UofL Athletics web site at www.GoCards.com/puertorico. A one-time, $9.95 fee will provide access to the games, which may be viewed live or on demand for a limited time following the live feed.