A preseason All-Big East Conference selection and one of the top 50 candidates for the Wooden Award and Naismith Award, University of Louisville sophomore Chane Behanan didn't have a smooth start to his sophomore season.
The 6-foot-6 forward from Bowling Green High School was suspended from two exhibition games, is banned from talking to the media until the second semester and hasn't played up to his potential on the floor.
On Saturday, Behanan looked like the Behanan that helped lead U of L to a Final Four appearance last season. Behanan hit 7 of 12 field goals, including a three-pointer, and finished with 33 points, three rebounds and two steals in 30 minutes to help the Cardinals rally from 16 down to beat Memphis 87-78.
"We needed that from Chane," junior guard Russ Smith said. "We have to give Chane a look because he's such a threat on that block, coach was wanting us to make sure we look at him. We got it inside and Chane did a good job."
U of L coach Rick Pitino stressed this week in practice that he wanted to get Behanan more touches on offense. He was averaging 8.8 points and 7.8 rebounds but had just 71 field-goal attempts coming into the game.
"We put in a lot of plays for Chane Behanan this week and we ignored him in the first half," Pitino said. "I just gave them a piece of my mind, saying you have a great player here but you are ignoring him."
The Cardinals got that message loud and clear. Behanan went 5-for-10 and had 16 of his points in the second half when U of L outscored the Tigers 59-43.
"He's a great player and he deserves all the credit," Pitino said. "He's been working really hard to get back and we're going to continue to go to him."
Pitino has said several times during the early part of the season that Behanan didn't work as hard as others during the summer time.
But Behanan has come a long way and against the Tigers, the Cardinals emphasized getting him the ball and he went to work. He scored on several plays when he backed the defense down and hit two running hooks.
"I think we just looked for him a little more this time," Hancock said. "We know Chane can score and he's been working hard on his game. I think we looked more and we need to keep that mindset the rest of the year."
Behanan's performance was even bigger because the Cardinals' were short of front court players. Center Gorgui Dieng is out with a broken left wrist, while backup center Stephan Van Treese only played nine minutes because of a bruised knee.
"Chane did great and I am happy that he finally had a great performance," Van Treese said. "You can see what he can do. Chane can really score."