ST. LOUIS - An old SEC nemesis up on a new team Tuesday night and that wasn't a good thing for the short-handed and over-matched Razorbacks.
Former Mississippi State star Reginald Delk poured in 13 of his game-high 20 points in the first half for No. 20 Louisville and then stymied a University of Arkansas push in the second half en route to a 96-66 win Tuesday night in the Hall of Fame Showcase.
It was a far cry from the Razorbacks' 130-68 season-opening win over Alcorn State last Friday night.
"There were some good things for us out there, but unfortunately not enough to be able to compete and challenge at the end," Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey said. "I thought Louisville played tremendous. Coach's team has always does a great, great job in terms of spacing the floor and put a lot of heat on you…We needed a night where they didn't shoot great from the 3-point line."
Instead Coach Rick Pitino's Louisville squad buried 15-of-38 treys and limited Arkansas to just 3-of-13.
All three of those were made by sophomore guard Rotnei Clarke, who was held to 16 points after scoring a school-record 51 in the Razorbacks' season opener.
"We had our team yell out his name on every pass so we would be reminded how important it was to remember where he was," Pitino said.
Clarke was 6-of-11 from the field overall was was 3-of-7 from 3-point range after hitting 13-of-17 from there in the opener.
Freshman power forward Marshawn Powell had 15 points and 11 rebounds for his second double-double in as many outings, but he was the only other Razorback in double figures.
"It was pretty tough," Clarke said. "They had a good game plan for us, but other guys stepped up for us and made plays. It was tough. I didn't have a lot of looks, which I don't have to have if we win, but we didn't have a win and I think we could have done better on our defensive end."
Delk, who was 8 of 9 from the field and hit 4-of-5 3-pointers while being named the game's MVP, was key when the Razorbacks rallied from an early deficit to take a lead midway through the first half.
He came up big again when Arkansas scored the first 14 points of the second half and to turn a 17-point intermission deficit to 48-45.
"We are very pleased in our opening game to get this type of victory," noted Pitino, Pelphrey's college coach at Kentucky. "We didn't panic when they made a good comeback early in the second half. We just said that fatigue is the element on our side and we have got to get staying with what we want – trying to wear them out so their shooting percentage is not high."
That fatigued was expected because the Cardinals had 13 scholarship players while the Razorbacks – because of suspensions – and an injury to sophomore Michael Sanchez – trotted out just 6.
"I think Arkansas and Louisville have similar approaches to the game both offensive and defensively," Pitino said, "but we have more numbers and we had fresher bodies so we were able to play our style while they were not able to play their style because of limited numbers. But once they get their numbers they are going to be a terrific basketball team."
Pelphrey and his players refused to use their numbers as a reason for the loss.
"We're not making excuses," Pelphrey said. "We just didn't play well enough. You have to give Louisville credit."
Delk, who Pitino said had been struggling with his shot in practice until recently, shrugged off his success.
"I hit a couple of jump shots and it got my confidence up," Delk said. "I've been stroking it pretty good on practice. It felt good once I got into a rhythm. I knew I needed to turn it up for TV. I wanted to show people that I still got it, that I can shoot. I can play basketball. I can play defense."
Samardo Samuels added 17 points, Peyton Siva 14, Edgar Sosa 12, Preston Knowles 11 and St. Louis native Jared Swopshire 10 points and 11 rebounds.
That gave them a 45-9 advantage from beyond the arc in the contest.
"That was a big key to our success," Pitino said. "But I told our guys we are a great shooting team, but unless we also stop the three, it is of no consequence."
Arkansas senior center Michael Washington and freshman point guard Julysess Nobles both added 9 points with the latter also chipping in 8 assists and only 3 turnovers while playing the entire game.
"I knew they were going to try to press Julysess into the ground and I thought he responded tremendously," Pelphrey said. "He didn't come out. In 40 minutes with that heat, I thought he did a great job."
Washington was 4-of-8 from the field with just 2 rebounds and 6 of his team's 16 turnovers.
"They played a lot of zone and any time you play a zone – that is one of the things is it has a tendency to cover up front court players," Pelphrey said. "He got some opportunities early and he wasn't able to convert. He normally does that.
"But we know where our bread is butter and we are going right back to him this upcoming weekend. We know what he can do."
Arkansas fell down 7-2 early, but rallied back to take a 20-18 lead when Nobles cashed in two free throws at the 9:50 mark.
The Cardinals took charge at that point with a 30-11 spree to end that half.
That started with a Jerry Smith 3-pointer and included three more in the run, including a pair of consecutive ones by Delk that made it 46-31.
Samuels' two free throws with 24 seconds left to send Louisville to the break ahead 48-31.
"This is probably the best passing team that I've ever been on," Delk said. "We pass so well. We are so unselfish. We're never worried about our offense. We are always working on our defense."
Arkansas showed tremendous life out of the locker room at intermission with a 14-0 run to get back in the game.
Clarke buried a 3-pointer out of the gate and by the time Powell scored inside, the Razorbacks had closed their deficit to 48-45 with 15:36 left in the game.
"They came out with high intensity," Swopshire said. "Coach told us they were going to. We had to play hard, get the shots. They got a couple of buckets and they got confidence. We had to strap on our defense. That was our big problem."
Delk started a Louisville run the other way by getting a lay-up and knocking down a pair of 3-pointers to send his team ahead 58-45 with 13:21 left in the game.
That lead kept building, cresting at 32 on a bucket with 1:42 left that made it 96-64.
In between the Arkansas crowd did get to let out a huge roar when former Razorback head coach Eddie Sutton and former UA star player Lee Mayberry were introduced with 11:17 showing.
Arkansas gets back to action Friday when it hosts Appalachian State in a 7:05 p.m. game at Bud Walton Arena.
"We're not into moral victories," Pelphrey said. "There are things we need to do better – and we will. The players work really hard, they're serious about the team and they like representing the University of Arkansas."
Louisville 96, Arkansas 66
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