Frantic is the best word to describe the early pace as the both teams hurried up and down the court and following a steal at mid-court by Taquan Dean and subsequent layup gave the Cardinals their first lead of the game at 9-8.
Moments later, following a Bearcat foul at the 15:57 mark of the first half, Cincinnati head coach Bob Huggins drew a technical, sending Francisco Garcia to the line where he converted on both free throw attempts. Otis George connected on one of two foul shot attempts giving the Cardinals a 12-10 advantage.
A 9-0 Cincinnati run following the technical helped Cincinnati open a 19-12 lead with 13:30 remaining. However, the Cardinals returned the favor, going on their own 12-2 run to retake the lead 25-21 with 9:50 remaining. Garcia led the Cardinals charge scoring eight consecutive points, including a four-point play.
The two teams traded baskets throughout the remainder of the first with the Cardinals taking a narrow 44-40 halftime lead. The Cardinals were led by the trifecta of Dean, Garcia and Luke Whitehead who combined for 30 first half points.
Dean, who was playing with an injury that he suffered during the team's shootaround, would finish as the game's top scorer with 21 points, as well as collecting 7 rebounds, a new career high.
"I am real proud of our guys and especially Taquan," said Coach Rick Pitino. "This kid should have never played tonight and he's the toughest son of a gun I've ever coached. He's mentally tough and he's become a terrific point guard. I'm very proud of him."
Garcia finished with 19 points and 7 assists, while Whitehead added 18 points and 8 rebounds.
Both teams continued trading baskets as the second half opened with Louisville clinging to its four point margin at the first media timeout, leading 52-48. During the opening second half stretch Cincinnati was whistled for seven team fouls, sending the Cardinals to the free line for the final fifteen minutes of action.
Louisville opened its largest lead of the game at 56-48 following a layup by Otis George. After Cincinnati cut the lead in half, Louisville exploded for an 18-4 run, opening a 74-56 lead with seven minutes remaining.
The Bearcats foul trouble plagued them throughout the second half as the Cardinals connected on 18 of 27 freebies during the second frame. Louisville shot 69% from the foul line for the game, while Cincinnati was only able to convert 46% of their free attempts.
Louisville held an 81-60 lead after the Cardinals connected on five of six free throws during a two minute stretch and held an 83-62 lead at the final media timeout.
The Cardinals ended the game with a 12-4 run to win 93-66 and improve to 14-1 on the season.
"I've never gotten beat like that," said Cincinnati head coach Bob Huggins afterwards. "We didn't play. I took three time outs just to get guys in the right spots. That's not their fault; it's my fault."
The Cardinals will travel to Knoxville this weekend to face Tennessee for a nationally televised ESPN contest.
"We have to stay focused," said senior forward Luke Whitehead of the upcoming schedule. "We're just now starting to find who are…we don't think that we are that good right now."
Random Courtside Notes: