Cards clinch double-bye with win over Friars

No. 11 Louisville secured a top four Big East finish and a double-bye in next weeks Big East Conference Tournament with an 87-60 win over Providence. Kyle Kuric and Preston Knowles combined for 45 points as the Cardinals went 9-0 at home in the Big East.

A fun inaugural season at the KFC Yum! Center had a festive ending Wednesday night as No. 11 Louisville routed Providence 87-60 to secure a double-bye in the Big East Tournament.

Kyle Kuric led the Cardinals with 25 points, and senior guard Preston Knowles, playing his final home game, added 20 points and 10 rebounds, which was his first career double-double.

"It's been really fun to coach him because when he steps between the lines every single day, he gives it, but he gives it more importantly for the right reasons," Pitino said of Knowles. "He gives it for Louisville."

George Goode and Preston Knowles had a lot of fun on Senior Night, as Louisville routed Providence for their fourth straight victory.
Though Louisville started slowly as Providence jumped out to an early 16-9 lead, fueled by Vincent Council's early scoring spree, the Cardinals went on an 18-4 run to build a 27-20 lead with 6:25 left in the first half.

Providence cut Louisville's lead to 27-25 on Council's basket with 5:42, but the Cardinals finished the half on an 18-10 run to take a 45-35 halftime lead.

The Friars trailed the Cardinals 47-38 in the opening minute of the second half, but never got closer. Louisville pulled away during the second half, opening a 30-point lead at 85-55 with 1:50 remaining in the contest.

"It is awfully tough to defend when they have so many good shooters out there, so we extend our defense," Providence coach Keno Davis said. "But now they (Louisville) have the ability and intelligence to dump it in low and attack. And then they are able to rebound the basketball, those are their strong points.

"And maybe the biggest point for them is that they are the best transition team in the Big East. They get out and run as fast as anybody and it is awfully tough to defend, especially when they are running out to the 3-point line. We don't just have to run back to defend the basket, we have to defend on the perimeter, and that can definitely wear on you throughout 40 minutes."

Louisville did an outstanding job on Marshon Brooks, the Big East's leading scorer. Brooks, who scored 27 points in the Friars 72-67 win over the Cardinals in January, was held to just 12 points and made only 3-13 shots.

"We made up our mind tonight we were not going to let him breathe," Pitino said.

Council led Providence with 20 points, but Louisville put the clamps on the rest of the Friars. The Friars shot just 33 percent from the floor and committed 18 turnovers against Louisville's full court pressure.

Chris Smith added 12 points and was the only other Louisville player to score double figures, but ten Cardinals scored in the contest.

Though Louisville played without leading rebounder Rakeem Buckles, the Cardinals out-rebounded Providence 47-43, and out-scored the Friars, 27-11, in second chance points.

The win assures a top four finish in the Big East for Louisville, which guarantees a double-bye in next week's Big East Championship in New York City.

"I'm really proud of our seniors," said Pitino. "Sometimes you miss coaching players like this and they kind of restore your faith in everything you believe in as a coach. It was wonderful to coach them this year. I owe them a great debt of thanks because it was a really wonderful, wonderful season."

The Cardinals, who have won their past four games, end the regular-season Saturday afternoon at West Virginia. Louisville beat the Mountaineers last month on a last second shot by point guard Peyton Siva.

"We never lost two in a row in a very difficult conference. We played very entertaining basketball, very exciting basketball with a lot of character," Pitino said. "Now, we have our chance for our first sweep (of a segment) and it's going to take a mountainous effort. We've been there before in our last game of the season, but it's going to take a big effort to do it. There's not any team I would have more faith in than this team going into any environment."

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