Despite shooting just 36.8% for the game, the Louisville Cardinals used a strong defensive effort to overcome a stingy Holy Cross team for a 56-40 victory on Sunday afternoon at Freedom Hall.
"Defense has to win," said Coach Rick Pitino. "We did an unbelievable job of guarding them and we set a school record for blocked shots."
After building an early 7-2 lead on a dunk by Luke Whitehead, Holy Cross was able to put together a 9-0 run over the next five minutes and continued to hold Louisville scoreless until four minutes remained in the first half.
The Cardinals then connected on four three-pointers to close the half and take a 22-19 lead to the locker room.
"They were bad shots," said Pitino of Garcia's three 3-pointers during that stretch. "Great players sometimes make those shots."
U of L shot a dismal 30.8% from the field, butwas able to limit the Crusaders to just 22.6% shooting during the first frame.
Led by Kendall Dartez's nine blocks, Louisville set a new school record for blocked shots in a game with 18.
"The best way to motivate a young man is for him to see the crowd get very excited over Nouha Diakite's blocks," explained Pitino. "Then Kendall gets the message and he comes in and gets nine of them himself."
After trading baskets for the first nine minutes of the second half, Louisville then used a 15-0 run over the next 4:34 to build a 46-28 advantage.
The Cardinals would then find the remaining of their points, with the exception of a jumper by Francisco Garcia, coming from the free throw line to secure the 56-40 victory.
The Cardinals were led by sophomore Francisco Garcia, who matched a career high with 24 points.
"I know this is going to sound crazy but I am much happier with this win than the Western (Kentucky) game because we could have lost this game," Pitino said.
Nouha Diakite, who has been sidelined for the first two games due to questions concerning his eligibilty, entered the game midway through the first half to a roaring crowd. The junior college transfer played 17 minutes, recording 4 blocks, 2 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 point.