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Louisville pummels Cornell, 99-54

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Kevin Ware needed just 17 seconds to show Louisville fans he can still play.

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Ware, the sentimental figure during the Cardinals' title run last season, scored Friday night on the first touch of his official return since shattering his leg during last season's NCAA tournament.

The third-ranked Cardinals posted a school-record 19th straight win while welcoming back Ware in a 99-54 victory over Cornell.

Ware, who played in an exhibition this season before sitting out Louisville's first two games, entered with 14:06 left in the first half. He split defenders on a drive to cap a 20-point run that made it 22-2.

''I was pretty upset at myself that I didn't dunk that one,'' Ware said. ''I thought the big man would jump so I was looking for the contact. I'm just glad that I'm playing and just understanding myself again.''

Ware finished with five points and had two rebounds in 13 minutes.

''He's obviously not afraid to take it to people,'' Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. ''He looked good out there.''

Ware's first game action since his injury came in a Nov. 6 exhibition, 220 days after the lower bone in his right leg came through his skin after a spill in the NCAA tournament.

Ware didn't play three days later against College of Charleston as Pitino said the 6-foot-2 sophomore was ''still limping a bit'' and planned to keep in him on the bench until he recovered.

''I didn't feel it, but even my mom and my sisters who came to that practice were telling me that I was limping,'' said Ware, who also missed Tuesday's win against Hofstra. ''At the time I was denying it completely like, `Nah, I'm fine, I'm going to play,' but Coach knew what he was doing.''

Ware showed his athleticism on a rebound he took all the way for a pretty left-handed finish to give Louisville a 39-11 lead with 6:24 remaining in the opening half.

Wayne Blackshear led the Cardinals (3-0) with 20 points, hitting 4 of 5 3-pointers. Chane Behanan added 13 points and 12 rebounds.

Nolan Cressler scored 10 points for Cornell (0-4).

The Cardinals broke the school record for consecutive wins set by the champion 1979-80 team. Louisville won 16 straight in taking its third title last season.

This win marked the 1,700th victory in the program's 100th season. Louisville ranks 12th on the all-time win list.

Cornell lost to a Top 10 for the second time in seven days, having fallen at Syracuse 82-60 after leading by 14 early in the game.

''You're going against the best teams in America, so you kind of get a barometer of where you may be as a program and as a group,'' Cornell coach Bill Courtney said. ''Our team is so young that we're still trying to figure ourselves out.''

Louisville forward Luke Hancock said the Big Red's fast start against the Orange was a factor in the team's preparation.

''The fact that they played so well the first-half against Syracuse, it made us pretty nervous and made us on our toes,'' said Hancock, who finished with 12 points.

A problem with the lights at the KFC Yum! Center caused a 15-minute delay prior to the start of the game. After that, it was all Louisville.

Tied at 2, Louisville unleashed the latest of its patented ''boom'' scoring spurts less than 1 1/2 minutes into the game.

Guards Russ Smith and Chris Jones helped the Cardinals score 12 straight points. That forced Cornell to take a timeout, down 14-2 with 16:08 remaining in the half.

Two Louisville steals that led to dunks followed, forcing another timeout.

Louisville erupted for a 35-2 run in Tuesday night's 97-69 win over Hofstra and closed its opening win against College of Charleston by scoring 22 of the game's final 25 points.

The Big Red used 15 players in the first half in an attempt to find any sort of success. They trailed 53-14 at halftime, shooting just 16 percent (5 of 32) in the opening 20 minutes. Cornell shot 29 percent for the game.

AP NEWS
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The Associated Press
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