HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Louisville passed its first test as the No. 1 team in the country, beating Connecticut with a spirited second half.
Next comes No. 6 Syracuse on Saturday after a 73-58 win Monday night.
There are a bunch of other tough games in the next few weeks, so it's no wonder Cardinals coach Rick Pitino says it will be like ``musical chairs' on top of the rankings. But with star guards Russ Smith and Peyton Siva orchestrating the offense and defense, Pitino said there's nothing wrong with staying on top for a while.
``You played a great schedule, so you're very deserving of that,' he told his team about the No. 1 ranking, the second in school history. ``Why don't you hold on to that for a little while? It's going to leave you, but you're going to play for it at the end ... which is the most important thing. So hold on to it for a while.'
Point guard and Big East preseason player of the year Peyton Siva isn't a fan of what comes with being No. 1, but he'll suffer through it for his teammates.
``I don't really like it, because it puts a big bull's eye on your back,' he said. ``But my team embraces it. They play with that chip on their shoulder like they should be No. 1 and in the second half, we proved it.'
He was talking about the Cardinals' victory over Connecticut.
Connecticut, which shot 53.8 percent from the field in the first half, had just three field goals in the opening 13 minutes of the second half as Louisville went ahead 60-44. The Huskies, who went 9 minutes without a field goal at one stretch, had trouble moving the ball against the fullcourt pressure and 2-3 zone of the Cardinals. The Huskies had seven turnovers in the first 11 minutes of the second half, matching their total in the first half.
``In the second half, we came out and we put it all together,' Siva said. ``The second half, I just tried to get everybody going.'
Louisville shot 60.7 percent in the second half (17 of 28) and hit an even 50 percent for the game.
``They deserve the No. 1 ranking,' Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie said. ``They have talent. They play together. They play hard. Whoever's open, they get the ball to. And they have those two amazing guards. Siva and Russ put pressure on our offense and defense the whole night.'
Russ Smith had 23 points and Siva managed 11 in a foul-plagued 22 minutes for the Cardinals, who were playing just hours after they moved to the top of the poll.
The Cardinals (16-1, 4-0 Big East) won their 11th straight game.
Omar Calhoun led the Huskies (12-4, 2-2) with 20 points while Shabazz Napier added 12, all but two in the first half. Ryan Boatright had 11 points and he and Napier both had six assists for the Huskies, who were coming off a win over then-No. 17 Notre Dame that was their sixth in seven games.
The Huskies shot 25.9 percent in the second half (7 of 27) and were at 39.6 percent for the game.
Calhoun gave his opinion of Louisville being No. 1.
``You ain't going to play a team better than that,' he said.
Connecticut dropped to 2-7 all-time against No. 1 teams, with the last win over Texas on Jan. 23, 2010.
The Associated Press News Service
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