The Cardinals jumped out to a 24-2 lead and never looked back in a 73-54 victory over Seton Hall in their Big East opener, and first game of 2011, Wednesday night in front of 21,912 fans at the KFC Yum! Center.
UofL quickly put its 15-point loss to Kentucky on Dec. 31 behind it, scoring the first 10 points of the game against former Cardinal assistant coach Kevin Willard's team.
Louisville (12-2, 1-0) scored the first 10 points of the game against the Pirates (7-8, 1-2).
"We got off to a great start and good things happen for you when you get off to a good start like that," UofL coach Rick Pitino said.
Surprise starter George Goode, who didn't play a minute in the Cards' 78-63 loss to UK, hit a pair of jumpers in the first two minutes to jump-start UofL.
"We did all the things today we didn't do against UK," said Goode, the 6-foot-8 senior, who finished with six points, three rebounds and two steals in 10 minutes.
Most notably the Cards cornered the market on rebounds, beating Seton Hall 46-35 on the glass. Sophomore forward Stephan Van Treese grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds.
"He really should've had 18 because there were four or five more he could've had," Pitino said. Van Treese, who played a whooping one minute against Kentucky, added four points in 27 minutes.
"We wanted to completely forget that game and just get ready for the Big East," Van Treese said.
Still the loss to their archrival was hard for some Cards to forget. Some re-watched the game just hours after it ended.
"A game like that you really want to put behind you, but you also want to learn from it," said sophomore guard Mike Marra, who came off the bench to score 14 points.
The best news of UofL's hot start - the Cards made 11 of their first 15 shots, while the Pirates missed 14 of their first 15 - was that point guard Peyton Siva shook off a rough outing against Kentucky and Marra found his shooting stroke again. The two also combined for UofL's prettiest play of the first half when Siva, on a fast break, threw an alley-oop to Marra, who then made a mid-air touch-pass to Gorgui Dieng for a layup.
Siva, who was 2-for-9 and scored six points against UK, scored nine of the Cards' first 26 points.
"We couldn't dwell on anything that happened, we just keep looking ahead," said Siva, who was 6 for 12 from the field on his way to 14 points and seven rebounds.
Meanwhile Marra, who had hit a total of three three-pointers in his previous five games, hit all three of his long-range tries in 12 minutes of the first half. He hit two in the final 2:43 to give the Cardinals a 36-21 lead at intermission.
Preston Knowles also had a solid all-around first 20 minutes with six points, seven rebounds and five assists for the Cards, who shot 46.9 percent (15 of 32) in the first half.
The Pirates, meanwhile, shot a frigid 22.6 percent (7 for 31) from the field.
Seton Hall sorely missed senior guard Jeremy Hazell, who has traditionally given the Cards fits. The 6-foot-5 Hazell, who averaged 24 points in three career games against UofL and had 25 in Seton Hall‘s 80-77 victory over the Cards last season, was shot during a visit to his home in Harlem, N.Y. in late November.
The Cards picked up where they left off over the first 10 minutes of the second half, building a 28-point lead (58-30), before the Pirates fought back.
Freshman forward Fuquan Edwin, who scored a game-high 18 points, went on his own personal scoring spree. He scored nine in a row before teammate Herb Pope added a free throw to cap off a 10-0 spurt by the Pirates.
"It was hard coming back," Willard said. "We knew coming in after the Kentucky game that they would be ready to go and they did a good job at jumping on us and taking advantage of mistakes we made. It's tough to come back when you're down 24-2."
Seton Hall, however, couldn't get closer than 16 in the second half.
Knowles finished with eight points, nine rebounds, five assists and three steals, while Dieng added nine points, six rebounds and five blocked shots.
"I love this team," Willard said of the Cards. "I've watched them all year obviously because my father (Ralph) coaches them. Obviously they're not the most-talented group. They don't have the superstars, but they play hard and unselfish, especially when they are hitting their shots, they can beat anybody."
UofL plays its first Big East road game - and first game out of the state all season - at 12:04 p.m. Sunday at South Florida.
"Everybody says that we're at the bottom of the barrel, but I feel like we're at the top," said junior guard Chris Smith, who added nine points and five rebounds.