The Cardinals held the Mountaineers well below their averages in shooting and scoring as they posted a 63-54 Big East Conference win in front of 19,764 fans at Freedom Hall.
"This was a great defensive effort for our team," UofL coach Rick Pitino said.
West Virginia (11-4, 1-2) came in averaging 83.1 points per game and shooting 48.2 percent from the field, but the Mountaineers managed a season-low point total and 36.4 percent shooting (20 of 55) against the Cards. UofL was especially effective at defending the three-pointer. West Virginia, which came in shooting 38.3 percent from long range and averaging 8.8 made threes per game, was just 4-for-17 (23.5 percent) from beyond the arc.
"That was our focus coming in," UofL senior center David Padgett said. "We knew all their guys, one through five, we knew they could shoot and we just tried to focus on that.
"We did a really good job of defending the three. They only had two at halftime and then they hit a couple late."
"I thought Earl did a terrific job tonight," Pitino said.
Edgar Sosa added 10 points off the bench too, as the Cards' reserves outscored their West Virginia counterparts 30-4. Terrence Williams, UofL's leading scorer, scored just three points but he hauled in five rebounds and dished out a game-high six assists.
"We're not going to score 54 points and beat anybody," West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. "If we continue to score 54 points we won't win another game."
The two teams went back-and-forth for most of the game's first 14 minutes. Ruoff's three tied the score at 22-all with 6:06 remaining in the first half, but the Cards outscored the Mountaineers 10-2 to close out the half to lead 32-24.
"We played very good defense," said senior forward Juan Palacios, who had six points and five rebounds. "That was a team averaging 83 points a game and we held them to 24 points in the first half."
Clark accounted for half of those points, four came on put-backs as UofL outscored West Virginia 11-2 on second-chance points in the first half. That, along with only three first-half turnovers, helped offset 36.4 percent (12 of 33) shooting by the Cards. The Mountaineers weren't much better at 37 percent (10 of 27).
Clark led Louisville with nine points and six rebounds in the first half. Led by Clark and six from Sosa, UofL's reserves outscored their West Virginia counterparts 19-2 in the first 20 minutes.
West Virginia cut the Cards' lead to six early in the second half, but UofL outscored the Mountaineers 13-5 over the next six minutes boosted by its aggressive defense, which sometimes extended full-court. The Cards pushed their lead to as much as 21, on Derrick Caracter's basket with 4:10 to play, but West Virginia scored the final 12 points of the game.
"They were top five in the country preseason, they've got a lot of good players, unfortunately for Rick they had some guys banged up, but sometimes guys getting hurt early helps you," Huggins said.
The Cards play at Rutgers at noon on Sunday.