Actually, the run that spilled over into that second half onslaught, began with about six minutes left in the first half. The Cards came out ready to play from the start last night but couldn't get their offense in gear until late in the opening half. Once the Cards defense started creating problems for Western, Louisville's offense was in full motion, as they were able to get out in transition for easy baskets and quick scoring opportunities.
Sure Luke Whitehead was a key performer with his three early second half steals and work on the back board. Once again, the senior forward proved you don't have to be 6'9 to put up big time scoring and rebounding numbers. He even pushed the ball up court a few time, displaying his multi-talented skills.
Alhaji Mohammed came off the bench and provided energy and defensive intensity. His ability to finish around the basket created problems for WKU and his rim bending jam from the wing energized the Louisville bench early in the second half.
And how many teams can claim their point guard grabbed nine rebounds? Taquan Dean didn't score a whole lot, though his three three pointers were daggers to Western's defense and fans, but his defense was excellent and he helped Louisville out rebound the toppers 42-37, which led to 12 fast break points and was a major reason for the blowout.
Also give credit to Kendall Dartez for bouncing back and coming up big for his team. Dartez, who was replaced in the starting lineup by 6'9 Otis George, isn't a physical presence in the lane. He's never going to be a great rebounder but last night he played hard, got some things done on the offensive end, and helped put Nigel Dixon in second half foul trouble.
But the star of the show and the most important player for this team was Francisco Garcia. Against Iowa, Garcia looked to force the offensive action, occasionally plowing into a crowded lane and hoisting up challenged shots. Not last night, though.
Garcia simply changed the game with his passing, and not many players can do that. Though he only scored 11 points, the 6'7 sophomore was the difference in the game and one of the main reasons Louisville broke away from the Hilltoppers after halftime. Simply put, Garcia's ability to create easy offensive opportunities for others makes him special. Last night, he even operated from the point, breaking down the defense off the bounce and slicing into the lane repeatedly where he found open teammates for layups and open threes. His eight assists were a game high and he also blocked three shots and had two steals.
And while there were plenty of individual stars last night, the reason Louisville played so well is that it played together as a team. The press was effective, forcing turnovers and wearing down the Hilltoppers in the second half. On offense, the scoring was well balanced as seven players scored in double figures, and the passing and unselfishness were outstanding, evidenced by 24 assists.
And don't forget the contributions of the bench, either. Louisville's subs gave the team a lift last night. Alhaji Mohammed provided energy, Nate Daniels knocked down jumpers and helped out on the boards, and freshman point Brandon Jenkins also did some nice things with his defensive and passing ability. And we've already mentioned Kendall Dartez' effect on the game.
All in all, it was a great performance by the Cards against the Hilltoppers. Now, they have the opportunity to return home for a significant stretch the rest of this month where you know they'll only improve upon what we saw last night. If that's the case, Louisville fans will have plenty more excitement in store this season.