It was an annihilation.
The Cardinals mauled No. 13 Marquette 71-51 Thursday night in front of 19,834 fans at Freedom Hall.
Fourteen of the previous 22 meetings between the two schools were decided by five points or fewer, or in overtime, but this one was decided early in the second half. A 12-0 UofL run, keyed by senior center David Padgett, turned a potential barn-burner into a blowout.
"This was a great win for us," UofL coach Rick Pitino said. "We did a terrific job tonight of executing, I'm real proud of our guys…they all played real well."
The Cards (13-4, 3-1) dominated up front. UofL's frontcourt players combined for 58 points, led by Terrence Williams' 20 and Padgett's 17, and 31 rebounds as the Cards clobbered Marquette 43-30 on the backboards.
"We wanted to come out and be as aggressive as we could on the glass because we knew we had a size advantage," said the 6-foot-11 Padgett, who had a game-high 10 rebounds.
UofL held the Golden Eagles (13-3, 3-2) to a season-low point total and 30.4 percent (17 of 56) shooting, including 0-for-12 from three-point range. Marquette came in averaging 9.8 made threes per game.
"We want people to talk about Louisville and say, ‘They've got a very good defense,'" senior forward Juan Palacios said. "We're not worrying about offense right now."
Jerel McNeal led the Golden Eagles with 16 points, while Wesley Matthews added 14. Point guard Dominic James, who came in leading Marquette in scoring (14.9 points per game), scored just three points on 1 of 5 shooting in 29 minutes. James left late in the game after falling hard on his right wrist.
"Any time you play against good defense you can't settle for jump shots," Marquette coach Tom Crean said. "When you're settling for jump shots against a team that has the size they have and rebounders they have it plays right into their hands, and that's what we did in the first half."
UofL led 27-19 at halftime. The Cards used the high pick-and-roll to utilize its decided height advantage against smallish Marquette – which started no one taller than 6-8 – to get some easy baskets inside and build an 11-4 lead.
"The first three minutes we were brilliant on offense," Pitino said. "We got some nice situations off the pick-and-roll."
The Cards held the Golden Eagles without a field goal for nearly seven minutes of the first half, but Marquette managed to pull within eight points at halftime on James' buzzer-beater. It was his only field goal of the game, though.
The Golden Eagles made only 27.6 percent (8 of 29) of their first-half shot attempts and were 0 of 8 from three-point range.
UofL outrebounded Marquette 25-18 in the first half and the Cards' frontcourt players accounted for 21 of their 27 points led by Padgett's six points and six rebounds.
"David Padgett is the best screen-roll player in the last two or three years," Crean said. "He facilitates their offense maybe better than any playmaker in the country."
Early in the second half the Golden Eagles cut UofL's lead to 30-26, but Padgett responded with six straight points, then assisted a jumper by T-Will.
Marquette went without a basket for five minutes before reserve Maurice Acker hit a field goal with 12:37 remaining in the game. Led by McNeal, who scored 10 of Marquette's 12 points during a span in the second-half, the Golden Eagles rallied within 10 (50-40) with eight and a half minutes to go, but UofL outscored them 21-11 the rest of the way.
T-Will scored 10 of the Cards' final 19 points – many on open jumpers – but it seemed only fitting that Padgett scored the game's final points on a rebound basket with nine seconds left as UofL won for the eighth time in its last nine games.
"Since the Kentucky game I think we've been playing pretty well," Padgett said. "Hopefully we can keep getting better and better every game."
UofL next plays at Seton Hall at 8 p.m. Saturday night.