LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Louisville dismissed junior forward Chane Behanan from the team on Monday for another violation of university policy.
Cardinals coach Rick Pitino did not specify what rule was broken but expressed disappointment that the 6-foot-6 forward had another setback just a month after being reinstated from a 26-day suspension for violating school policy. The coach said Behanan and the Cardinals (11-2) were informed of the decision on Monday morning.
Behanan was a key member of Louisville's national championship squad and was named to the Final Four all-tournament team. He had averaged 8.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and shot 67 percent from the field in 11 games this season backing up sophomore power forward Montrezl Harrell.
Pitino said "away from the lines he just did not do the right things. ... It sets our basketball team back immensely."
Behanan went scoreless with seven rebounds in Saturday's 73-66 loss to No. 15 Kentucky. The Cincinnati native averaged 9.4 points and 6.9 rebounds per game during his Louisville career.
"I want to apologize for letting down my family, teammates, coaches, (athletic director) Tom Jurich, this university and the Louisville fans," Behanan said in a statement released by the school.
Behanan's exit leaves the Cardinals thin in the frontcourt entering Tuesday night's American Athletic Conference opener at Central Florida and jeopardizes their hopes of repeating as champions.
After 6-8 Harrell, 6-5 junior small forward Wayne Blackshear and 6-10 redshirt freshman center Mangok Mathiang, Louisville's bench consists of 6-6 perimeter threat Luke Hancock; 6-9 senior reserve Stephan Van Treese; and 6-8 freshman Akoy Agau. On top of losing Behanan, Pitino also suggested that junior guard Kevin Ware could be redshirted after struggling to come back from last year's devastating leg injury sustained in the Midwest regional final against Duke.
Louisville's frontcourt problems were exposed by Kentucky, which outrebounded the Cardinals 44-36 and outscored them 42-24 in the paint. Behanan missed all three shot attempts and committed three turnovers in the game, and Pitino suggested he might have been distracted "because he knew without us knowing the hammer was about to fall."
Louisville's challenge now is avoiding further collapse without Behanan.
"Our front court, It's obvious from the North Carolina (loss) as well as the Kentucky game is the weak part of our basketball team right now," Pitino said. "Now, we have to jump up on the fly and play a very good Central Florida team on the road that presents a lot of problems up front. They are a team that shoots the 3(-pointer) great.
"Rebounding has been a problem for us from the beginning of the year, anyway. Now you're going to have to try to play a freshman, Agau. ... A lot of things we have to do, but we have no time to do it right now. We have to do it on the fly."
Behanan's dismissal ends a tumultuous early season for him. He was coming off the bench after starting 37 of 39 games during the Cardinals' title run last year.
Pitino announced on Oct. 17 that Behanan was suspended indefinitely following the unspecified violation. He was reinstated on Nov. 11 and returned the next day against Hofstra after meeting conditions that surprised his coach.
However, troubles continued to follow Behanan.
After returning from his suspension, Behanan's name came up again after his 2012 Final Four ring turned up for sale on a sports memorabilia late last month. The player's mother said he gave the jewelry to his grandmother and that it had been stolen from her home without her or Behanan's knowledge.
The website quickly removed the ring and returned it to the family. A university and police investigation later cleared Behanan from any involvement in the process.
Since then Behanan had been trying to regain the aggressive form that helped lead Louisville to its third NCAA title. He posted season highs of 13 points and 12 rebounds in his second game back against Cornell on Nov. 15 but now must choose between transferring to another school or turning professional.
Said Pitino, "I'm just worried about his future. I want him to overcome his problems and be successful in life."
AP Freelance Writer J.J. Hysell in Louisville, Ky., contributed to this report.