LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Two weeks of struggle had begun to raise questions about Louisville's ability to contend in the Big East.
And while some concerns remain to be addressed over the second half of their league schedule, the No. 12 Cardinals reclaimed some of their swagger with Sunday's 70-51 rout of No. 25 Marquette.
Russ Smith scored 18 points, Peyton Siva added 14 and Louisville shot 52 percent to run away from Marquette. The Cardinals' reserves helped out by outscoring the Golden Eagles' 19-10 - 21 points below their average coming in.
That contribution helped snap Louisville (18-4, 6-3) out of an early funk and the Cardinals went on to their most decisive victory since they started 4-0 in the league and beat opponents by average of 18.5 points per game. That dominance was forgotten in a three-game losing streak and a close win over Pittsburgh, which made the Cardinals feel even better about getting it back.
``The guards got back and got on the glass. I think we matched their physicality,' said Siva, who shot 6 of 9 from the field including a 3-pointer to break out of a 7-for-31 slump in the four previous games. He also had seven assists. ``Coach told us they were going to come in here and be physical with us. I think we did a better job after five minutes of matching their intensity.'
Marquette had an opportunity to take a one-game lead in the league on Syracuse, but the Golden Eagles were left settling for a first-place tie with the Orange. The Cardinals, meanwhile, moved a half-game closer to both schools with their second straight win, remaining in a four-way tie for third.
The Cardinals finished 27 of 52 from the field after a 1-for-8 start while holding the Golden Eagles (15-5, 6-2) to 36 percent shooting (19 of 53). They also outrebounded Marquette 38-26.
``I think we really just locked in and keyed on every play from the scouting report,' said Louisville forward Chane Behanan, who had five points and three rebounds. ``Coach stressed the whole week in practice that Marquette was a great smack-down team and they got maybe just two or three against us. I'm thrilled with how we played today.'
Gorgui Dieng added eight points and eight rebounds for Louisville.
Vander Blue had 17 points and Trent Lockett 16 for the Golden Eagles, who have dropped two of their last four games.
The Cardinals unveiled all-white uniforms for the school's ``White Out' promotion that even involved coach Rick Pitino, who was resplendent in an all-white suit.
``I wasn't going to wear it,' the coach said, ``but my daughters kept texting me and said it's bad karma if you don't wear it.'
But early on, Louisville's offense was as blank as its outfits.
The Cardinals trailed 9-1 behind 0-for-7 shooting and three turnovers, going nearly six minutes before Montrezl Harrell scored their first basket with a dunk at the 14:19 mark. Marquette controlled the game for several more minutes, but the freshman forward's shot helped shake the Cardinals from their listless start.
A 24-9 run followed over the next nine minutes as the Cardinals made 10 of their next 15 attempts. Wayne Blackshear, who missed the previous game with a shoulder injury, hit three of his first four shots.
``Coach just told us to do our jobs,' said Blackshear, who finished with nine points.
Stephan Van Treese added three rebounds in the half while Harrell put a body in front of 6-foot-8, 290-pound Golden Eagles reserve forward Davante Gardner, who went to the bench with his second foul midway through the half. Marquette's second-leading scorer finished with just two points and two rebounds in 13 minutes.
``You have to beat Louisville twice,' Marquette coach Buzz Williams said. ``You have to beat them in the front court, then you have to beat them in the backcourt. Going into today, one of every three points that scored were based off turnovers. They rebounded 42 percent of their missed shots. Those two numbers are outstanding.
``That is why they are a top-five team.'
Marquette struggled getting the ball into the paint and fell victim to Louisville's pressure defense several other times. The result was 10-of-31 shooting in the first half and a 38-24 deficit to the Cardinals.
Louisville's starters found their games, as well, with Smith scoring 12 points and Siva nine in the first half. The Cardinals stretched their lead to 53-30 about six minutes into the second half when Luke Hancock made back-to-back 3s on feeds from Siva.
The Cardinals' lead reached 23 in the second half and Marquette didn't get closer than 15 the rest of the way.
``I thought about every aspect tonight we did a really good job,' Pitino said. ``We really honed in on what they do well. We rebounded well in stretches, went back door against them. Really, really happy with our effort. We had them to six assists in the game, which means good containment without rotating.
``We needed a good victory today and we got it.'
The Associated Press News Service
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