Ailing Cards refuse to 'break,' beat Coogs

#4 Louisville (16-1, 6-0) knocked off Houston Wednesday night in Freedom Hall without Head Coach Rick Pitino, and starters Francisco Garcia and Taquan Dean.

Even broken physically, these Cardinals, led by interim head coach Kevin Willard, remained 'unbreakable' Wednesday night against the Houston Cougars.

With head coach Rick Pitino finishing up in Cleveland and starters Taquan Dean and Francisco Garcia on the bench in street clothes, reserves Nate Daniels and Alhaji Mohammed and starter Larry O'Bannon led the Cards to a gutty 64-48 victory over the Cougars.

"No, it wasn't pretty, but it was a win," Willard said. "I am happy with the guys. There were a lot of distractions the last couple days, but they came out focused. I'm real happy."

Without their head coach and two best offensive weapons, Louisville (16-1, 6-0) struggled early in the first half offensively, missing five of their first eleven shots in the game.

But despite firing blanks early, the U of L defense was once again outstanding, limiting Houston to just 22 first half points.

A 23-5 run midway through the first half helped Louisville build an 18 point margin in the first half before Houston nailed two three pointers in the closing minutes to cut the Cardinals lead at the break to 12, 34-22.

Out of the locker room, Louisville opened a 15 point lead in the first few minutes of the second half and looked like they might pull away but a quick 7-0 Houston run cut the margin to eight with under 15 minutes remaining.

Willard then called timeout to re-gather his troops and the Cardinals answered with a 6-0 run to go ahead 47-33 midway through the final half. From there, Louisville coasted to the finish for their 16th straight victory since opening the season with a one point loss to Iowa in overtime.

"We thought we were in position in the second half, but some turnovers really hurt us," Houston head coach Ray McCallum said. "That is what Louisville has the ability to do. We thought we could guard their sets, but they had the ability to make shots. For us we have had trouble scoring all year long and that is a credit to them tonight. Their halfcourt defense makes it very difficult to score. They only had four blocks, but they were timely blocks to end our run."

O'Bannon and Daniels each scored 17 points and Mohammed added 13 for the Cardinals, who shot a season low 34.5 percent from the floor. Kendall Dartez and Otis George led Louisville with 9 rebounds each.

Andre Owens led Houston with 15 points and seven rebounds but committed 8 turnovers against the Cardinals pressure. The Cougars committed 22 turnovers, shot just 38-percent from the field and were out-rebounded by Louisville 36-28.

HOUSTON (7-10) Ikeakor 1-3 1-1 3, Ferguson 2-4 0-2 4, Oliver 4-8 4-6 13, Owens 6-17 1-3 15, Smith 1-3 0-0 2, Nachbar 0-0 0-0 0, Barber 1-2 0-0 3, Miller 0-0 0-2 0, Shelton 3-5 0-0 8, Dyer 0-3 0-0 0, Pinkalla 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 18-47 6-14 48.

LOUISVILLE (16-1) Whitehead 2-8 2-2 6, O'Bannon 4-14 6-8 17, Dartez 1-4 1-2 3, Jenkins 1-4 2-2 4, Mohammed 4-5 4-5 13, Diakite 1-2 0-0 2, Gianiny 0-1 0-0 0, Current 0-0 0-0 0, Daniels 5-13 2-2 17, George 1-4 0-0 2. Totals 19-55 17-21 64.

Halftime- Louisville 34-22. 3-Point Goals- Houston 6-15 (Owens 2-7, Shelton 2-3, Barber 1-1, Oliver 1-2, Pinkalla 0-2), Louisville 9-27 (Daniels 5-10, O'Bannon 3-10, Mohammed 1-1, Gianiny 0-1, Dartez 0-1, Jenkins 0-2, Whitehead 0-2). Fouled out- Mohammed. Rebounds- Houston 32 (Owens 7), Louisville 38 (Dartez, George 9). Assists- Houston 9 (Owens 3), Louisville 15 (O'Bannon 5). Total fouls- Houston 19, Louisville 18. A- 19,226.

Notes

  • Coach Pitino is expected to fly back to town this morning and resume coaching at Thursday afternoon's practice.
  • Willard said after the game that Garcia and Dean are day-to-day.

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