Louisville grinds out win over Rutgers

No. 16 Louisville sprinted out to a 14-point halftime lead at Rutgers, then grinded out their tenth Big East win in the second half, knocking off the Scarlet Knights, 55-37, Tuesday night.

Louisville shot just 35 percent against Rutgers Tuesday night in Piscataway, but downed the host Scarlet Knights, 55-37, thanks to strong outside shooting and outstanding defense.

The Cardinals made seven first half three-pointers for a 33-19 halftime lead over Rutgers, but shot just 29 percent after the break. Though Louisville didn't shoot well, they made 11 of 29 three-pointers to improve to 21-7 and 10-5 in Big East play.

"The first ten minutes of the game we were great offensively," Rick Pitino said during his post-game show. "They started out in man and they went to a zone. We didn't attack the zone like we should have and struggled a little bit."

Preston Knowles led UofL with 14 points, while Kyle Kuric was the Cardinals other double figure scorer with 11. Knowles hit 4 of 9 three's; Kuric made 3 of 7 bombs. Mike Marra also drained three first half triples.

Breakdown: Louisville vs. Rutgers

Knowles gets point With the post-season right around the corner, Rick Pitino appears to have a made a big decision to use Preston Knowles at the point in reserve of Peyton Siva, instead of freshmen Elisha Justice and Russ Smith. Knowles allows UofL to keep the defensive pressure up against opponents when he's at the point, but the Cardinals don't lose anything offensively. The strategy was effective against Rutgers. Knowles led Louisville with 14 points, and also had 8 rebounds, five steals and two assists.

Marra steps up Mike Marra has struggled of late, but the sophomore made three big three-pointers in the first half to help Louisville take command of the game against Rutgers. Marra, who has struggled with his conditioning because of a sprained ankle, also drew a charge and made three steals.

Siva Struggles After delivering a strong performance against UConn, Peyton Siva didn't get much done on the offensive end against the Knights. Siva made just 1 of 5 shots and handed out two assists. To his credit, Siva committed only one turnover in 32 minutes of action.

Road Win Louisville won their fourth road game in nine attempts this season Tuesday. The Cardinals did all the things necessary to win away from home, delivering a strong defensive performance, out-rebounding Rutgers 34-30, and forcing 18 turnovers.

Pittsburgh Awaits Now, Louisville returns home to face Pittsburgh this weekend. The Cardinals are tied for third place in the Big East standings with three games left, and have a chance to make another national statement against No. 4 Pittsburgh.

"With the Big East and NCAA Tournaments coming up Preston is going to get the opportunity to play the point and I think he did a very good job," Pitino said.

Though Louisville couldn't generate much offense after the break, the Cardinals never let the lead slip below nine in the second half.

Kyle Kuric's three with 18:18 remaining gave Louisville a 36-21 advantage. But the Cardinals didn't score another field goal until Preston Knowles knocked in a three with 6:18 left to give the Cardinals a 47-32 lead.

After Rutgers cut Louisville's lead to 39-30 on two free throws from Gilvydas Biruta with 9:35 left, the Cardinals went on an 11-2 run to put the game out of reach from the Scarlet Knights.

Chris Smith made 1 of 2 free throws to give Louisville a 40-30 advantage with 8:54. Knowles then hit two free throws for a 42-30 lead and Terrence Jennings made two foul shots to put Louisville up 44-30 with seven minutes to go.

That's when Knowles and Smith delivered the knockout punch for the Cardinals with back to back three-pointers to put Louisville ahead 50-32 with five minutes left to play.

Just as they did Friday against UConn, Louisville delivered another strong defensive outing. The Cardinals forced 18 turnovers, while only allowing Rutgers 13 field goals. Louisville made 10 steals - five from Knowles - and blocked six shots. Rutgers shot only 29.5 percent from the floor, including just 2 of 14 three-pointers.

"We did a great job defensively tonight," Pitino said. "We mixed up our man and zone and they were 2 for 14 from the three-point line and had 18 turnovers. We had 10 steals and they're a team who only turns it over 12 times a game. That was a major key."

Biruta, a freshman center, led Rutgers with 12 points. Jonathan Mitchell and Mike Coburn, Rutgers two leading scorers, finished with a combined seven points and were non-factors in the contest.

"I really like the way we're playing defense," Pitino said. "They're really mixing it up and studying scouting reports. This is a mature basketball team and they pay attention to every detail."

Louisville returns to action Sunday at 2:00 against No. 4 Pittsburgh at the Yum! Center.

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