Samardo, Cards slam South Alabama, 81-52

Freshman center Samardo Samuels scored 24 points on 9 of 10 shooting from the floor to help Louisville (2-0) slam South Alabama 81-52 in the Billy Minardi Classic finale Sunday afternoon at Freedom Hall.

University of South Alabama men's basketball coach Ronnie Arrow now knows the reason why Rick Pitino was preaching positivity in his new book.

"I was reading ('Rebound Rules') last week and he said you've got to be positive, and with a team like that it's easy to be positive," Arrow said.

Of course that was after the University of Louisville lambasted the Jaguars 81-54 in Sunday's championship game of the Billy Minardi Classic in front of 19,241 fans at Freedom Hall.

"For you people that are from here, you may be looking at the national champions," Arrow said in his post-game press conference. "Coach Pitino has assembled a group of guys that can go at least 10 or 11 deep and not miss a beat."

The third-ranked Cardinals (2-0) did it with offense - four scored in double figures - and defense - recording 43 deflections and forcing 24 USA turnovers.

Freshman center Samardo Samuels led Louisville with 24 points on 9 of 10 shooting, while senior forward Terrence Williams scored 12 points, grabbed seven rebounds, dished out seven assists and had five steals to earn tournament MVP honors.

Terrence Williams earned MVP honors in the
Minardi Classic. (AP)

"He's an outstanding player," Arrow said of Williams. "But I would have enjoyed watching them play another team, just not my team. They bring to the table what a coach likes, full intensity with depth. Terrence just keeps coming at you and coming at you. "They come at you. You can prepare for it, but you can't prepare the heat you're going to get for 40 minutes. Those guys have bought into it and they're going to keep coming at you for 40 minutes...Things will go good and all of the sudden they'll cause four turnovers and force the other team to take a bad shot, which is like a turnover, and boom they're up 22 points. That's what happened to us."

UofL, which started off slowly Saturday, got off to a hot start Sunday. The Cards led 5-0 a minute into the game thanks to a layup and three-point play by Samuels, who was fouled on a dunk.

Samuels scored 16 first-half points, on 6 of 6 shooting from the field and 4 of 5 shooting from the free throw line, as UofL led 39-27 at intermission.

"He's a man," Arrow said of Samuels. "He's got my vote to go hardship (to the NBA)."

Said Samuels, who scored 18 points on 8 of 12 shooting in Saturday's win over Morehead State: "Yesterday I didn't feel like I played the best game I could, I just wanted to come out and play my hardest. I just felt like I could redeem myself."

The Cards turned it on, and up, in the second half. Leading 39-31 UofL went on a 20-5 run to take command.

"This team is focused in a lot playing into the concept that we have to play defense," Williams said.

Junior forward Earl Clark added 12 points and five rebounds, while junior guard Edgar Sosa tallied 11 points for the Cards, who play Western Kentucky at 3 p.m. next Sunday at the Sommet Center in Nashville.

"I love the focus, I love the unselfishness, I love our attitude," Pitino said. "Where we were a week or two ago, and where we are now, I really like what we're getting out of this."

Brandon Davis and Domonic Tilford led South Alabama (2-2) with 16 points apiece. Davis also grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds. Tilford, a Louisville native who was Kentucky's Mr. Basketball at Jeffersontown High School, struggled somewhat in his homecoming. He was 5 for 19 from the field, including 3 of 10 from three-point range, and had a game-high seven turnovers.

"The biggest thing for coach (Pitino) is trying to find some minutes for all of the guys he's got," Arrow said. "I'll tell you what, I'm on the committee that votes for the ESPN/USA Today Top 25 and I've been voting them two or three since we started and they might be going up. I'd like to see them play North Carolina right now, but that's probably going to be real late in the season."

The 2008 Billy Minardi All-Tournament Team
Terrance Williams, Louisville
Samardo Samuels, Louisville
Earl Clark, Louisville
Kenneth Faried, Morehead State
Brandon Davis, South Alabama
Most Valuable Player: Terrence Williams (7.5 points, 9.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists)

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