"Obviously we overmatched this basketball team," said Coach Rick Pitino following his team's 51 point victory. "They had some key injuries and then had an academic problem tonight and they aren't as good as we are in terms of talent."
VMI, which entered the game at 2-6, fell behind quickly due to Taquan Dean's outside shooting. The sophomore guard connected on three consecutive three-pointers, as the Cardinals built an early 16-0 lead.
Following a brief 6-0 run by VMI, Dean continued a three-point barrage, when he hit his fourth at the 13:00 mark, which was followed by two consecutive baskets behind the arc by Nate Daniels, giving the Cardinals a 25-9 advantage.
Continuing with their unselfish play, the Cardinals quickly racked 11 assists in just the first eleven minutes of action. Francisco Garcia, who once again tied his career high with eight assists, continued to display his improved passing abilities, finding Luke Whitehead twice inside the paint, helping to build a 23-point lead at 34-11 with 8:30 remaining in the first half.
The team would go on to set a new Louisville record for most assists in one game with 34, surpassing the previous record of 32, which was done five times, the last being in 1999 against Alaska Anchorage.
Garcia, who entered the contest averaging 19.7 points per game, was stuck with just two points fourteen minutes into the game. His first three-pointer of the game at the 5:40 mark sparked a flurry of Cardinal bombs and defensive takeaways.
Following his three-pointer, Garcia turned toward the baseline and intercepted the inbounds pass and found Whitehead underneath for a dunk. Freshman walk-on Brad Gianiny stole the following inbounds pass, found Larry O'Bannon in the corner who dished to Whitehead for another dunk. Three-pointers by Garcia and Gianiny, followed by an O'Bannon dunk, built the Louisville to 50-18.
Two Dean three-pointers and a layup by Alhaji Mohammed gave the Cardinals a comfortable 34-point lead at half time at 58-24.
"Taquan is obviously a great shooter and if he sees a zone, he's going to make it," said Pitino.
The second half opened in similar fashion, with Dean draining yet another three-pointer, his seventh of the game. Dean would finish with a career-high 31 points and established a school-record for made three-pointers in a single game with nine, surpassing the previous mark of eight, which was held by Francisco Garcia and James ‘Boo' Brewer.
"I thought that maybe I could get it," explained Dean afterwards of the record. "I knew Francisco had it last year. We talked about it and he said that he'd help me get it. We'll probably be battling for that for awhile."
Otis George sends one home (ITV)
With seven minutes remaining in the game Coach Pitino officially emptied his bench when Joshua Tinch entered the game, with the Cardinals leading 93-44. Two and a half minutes later Tinch recorded his first basket of the season on baseline dunk, pushing the Cardinals ahead 97-48. Tinch then pushed the Cardinals over the 100 point mark with a three-pointer, bringing chants of, ‘Beat UK,' from the 18,174 fans on hand.
The 107-56 final was the largest margin of victory for a Louisville since the Cardinals defeated Morehead State 119-61 during the 1995 season.
"Our guys took care of business and they were very professional with the way they passed the basketball," Pitino said. "A lot of times in a lopsided victory, players tend to hunt your own shot, but our guys didn't do that…they thought pass before shot."
Louisville will next face top-ranked Kentucky at Rupp Arena on Saturday at 5:00 p.m.
"It's obviously a very difficult place to place," said Pitino of the upcoming Battle of the Bluegrass. "The last time they lost a regular season game was to us a year ago and that's quite an incredible feat. We realize that we have a mountain to climb."
Notes from Courtside:
VMI (2-7) Murrer 4-8 2-3 11, Mielnik 1-2 1-2 3, Allmond 2-6 2-4 6, Little 3-14 2-2 9, Coward 0-4 4-6 4, Mankevicius 4-6 1-2 9, Robinson 4-15 1-3 9, Castleberry 1-3 0-0 3, Ezekwe 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 20-61 13-22 56. LOUISVILLE (6-1) Whitehead 7-11 0-2 15, Garcia 5-10 0-1 12, Dartez 0-3 0-0 0, Dean 11-15 0-0 31, Mohammed 2-4 1-2 5, Tinch 2-4 0-0 5, Diakite 1-3 1-2 3, Jenkins 0-2 0-0 0, Gianiny 2-3 0-0 5, Johnson 0-2 1-3 1, Current 1-2 0-0 3, Daniels 6-11 2-2 17, O'Bannon 1-4 0-0 2, George 4-8 0-0 8. Totals 42-82 5-12 107. Halftime- Louisville 58-VMI 24. 3-point goals- VMI 3-17 (Castleberry 1-3, Murrer 1-4, Little 1-6, Coward 0-1, Robinson 0-3). Louisville 18-39 (Dean 9-12, Daniels 3-7, Garcia 2-7, Gianiny 1-1, Tinch 1-1, Current 1-2, Whitehead 1-2, Mohammed 0-1, Jenkins 0-2, O'Bannon 0-2, George 0-2). Fouled out- Mohammed. Rebounds- VMI 45 (Mankevicius 8), Louisville 48 (Whitehead 15). Assists- VMI 13 (Little 4), Louisville 34 (Garcia 8). Total fouls- VMI 15, Louisville 21. A- 18,174.