Louisville wins Big East opener

Russ Smith scored a game-high 23 points and No. 4 Louisville shot 53 percent to run away from Providence 80-62 on Wednesday night in the Big East Conference opener for both teams.

Chane Behanan led a 17-2 charge with about 7 minutes to go in the first half as the #3 Louisville Cardinals fought back a scrappy Providence Friars team that led for much of the first half, but could not overcome the hot shooting of Russ Smith and the Cardinal offense Tuesday night.

On a night in which the football team took precedence from the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, the 21,305 Louisville fans that stayed in town to root on the basketball team held their breath in the first half as Providence raced out to a 13- 3 lead early. But a Smith 3, followed by a layup and another deep triple by the sensational junior cut the lead to 13-8. A Behanan dunk made it 13-10, but the Cards struggled to stop the 3-point archers from Providence.

After LaDontae Batton's five foot jumper gave the Friars a 24-20 lead with about 7 minutes to go in the half, the stellar Cardinal defense came alive and used 7 steals and 7 shots inside 5 feet to catapult Louisville to a 17-2 run and put the Cardinals up 37-31 after a few late Friar buckets going into the half. Behanan's baseline spin into a dunk, then a rebound put-back gave the Louisville a six point lead and electrified the capacity crowd.

"I hear (Coach Pitino) say every practice when I get the ball to 'go to work'. That's something I'm working on before the game, just being more aggressive," said Behanan, who notched 10 points.

The second half was more of the same, as the Cardinals shot 63% and 5-of-7 from the 3-point line to put some distance between themselves and Providence. The lead swelled to 22 and that left many in the crowd looking for the neaest pub or TV to see if the football team could make it a daily-double for the two programs.

"We just want to thank all the fans who came out to support us who couldn't make it down to NOLA," said senior guard Peyton Siva. "It was a little weird to not see that packed house, but we knew the ones that made it out are those die- hard fans and we really appreciate them."

Louisville ended up shooting 53% for the game and managed 7-of-18 from 3- point range. The Cards forced 16 turnovers that led to 27 points and pushed their all-time record to 7-0 against the Friars at home.

Dieng picked up 11 points and a team high 11 rebounds. Luke Hancock also picked up 11 points on 3-of-6 shooting from beyond the arc.

Siva, who had a game-high 8 assists to complement his 10 points and just one turnover, also said he spoke to a few of his Florida friends in Gainesville that may be watching the Sugar Bowl later.

"I called (Gators center) Patric Young and told him we're gonna beat those Gators tonight, so he knows we're looking for that Cards win!"

Kadeem Batts had 17 points to lead the Friars, who fell to 8-5 with the loss. The game was the first Big East conference matchup for both teams.

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