'Toughest crowd I've ever faced': Rick Pitino heaps praise on Grand Canyon, fans after close win

A record 7,493 fans turned out to GCU Arena in Phoenix on Saturday to watch Grand Canyon's basketball team host the No. 14 Louisville Cardinals, coached by two-time NCAA champion Rick Pitino.

Behind a deafening crowd led by the "Havocs" student section, the Antelopes hung tough with Louisville, who won the 2013 national championship, for a full 40 minutes.

It's fair to say GCU's performance, along with the enthusiasm from the fans, caught Pitino's attention.

"I don't know a whole lot about Grand Canyon except for us doing (coach Dan Majerle) a favor in coming out here, and I probably would've lost my job if I lost ... but you've got something special here. Really special," Pitino said after his Cardinals escaped with a 79-70 win.

"When you have this type of enthusiasm, it made us a much better team tonight. Much better. Whether we go to Duke, Kentucky -- nothing was as tough as that environment tonight."

Grand Canyon actually led at halftime thanks to this buzzer-beating 3-pointer by guard DeWayne Russell. 

Russell, a 5-foot-11 senior from Peoria High School, scored a ridiculous 42 points Saturday night -- the second-most ever against Louisville -- and his performance was also singled out by Pitino.

"That was the best guard performance I've seen against one of my teams since I've been coaching for 40-something years," Pitino said.

Check out the video. Pitino's praise for the Antelopes really is incredible.

 

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