Senior forward Terrence Williams flirted with a triple-double (21 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists) for the 19th-ranked Cards (8-2), while Samuels recorded the second double-double of his career (17 points, 11 rebounds) just seven days after he scored only seven points and fouled out of UofL's 70-64 loss to Minnesota in Arizona.
"That was the difference in our team," Pitino said of the freshman center. "He went from turning it over (four times) against Minnesota, to passing the ball and making his teammates better."
Samuels had two assists, but he also showed an improved ability at spinning out, and away, from double teams and passing it out when he was covered up.
"The difference was just being more patient, understanding my role," said Samuels, who was 6- for-9 from the field and 5-for-7 from the foul line. "I was a little more comfortable today. My family was here, Coach P has been talking to me and coach Walt (McCarty) has been working with me."
Pitino also worked on his starting lineup, inserting sophomore Preston Knowles in at shooting guard (which moved Jerry Smith to the point) and freshman Jared Swopshire in for junior forward Earl Clark. Knowles and Swopshire had eight points apiece, while Clark tallied 12 off the bench.
"Earl didn't work hard in practice, that's why he didn't start, Swopshire worked extremely hard in practice," Pitino said. "I think we'll stay with (the lineup)."
Against that new starting five UAB, which currently has only six scholarship players on its team, blazed to an 11-10 lead behind the sharp- shooting of senior swingman Robert Vaden. Vaden, who lit up Kentucky for 33 points in Freedom Hall last season, hit two quick threes and a free throw, after being fouled on a three try, to give the Blazers the early lead. He finished with 22 points, but scored just nine in the second half.
"I thought we played good defense on him, he made tough shots, he's got very comfortable NBA range," Pitino said.
Clark checked in four minutes and 47 seconds into the first half. Shortly thereafter back-to-back threes by Andre McGee and Knowles ignited a 14-3 UofL run.
The Blazers outscored UofL 12-3 over the next six minutes to pull within 27-26 with 4:25 remaining in the first half.
But the Cards answered with a 10-0 run of their own. Williams accounted for seven points in the spurt, assisting a basket inside by Samuels, then capping the surge with a long three-pointer and a driving dunk down the middle of the lane.
UofL led 37-28 at the break behind 10 points apiece from T-Will and Samuels. Samuels also had seven rebounds, while the 6-foot-6 Williams had six.
"T-will's just been a man amongst boys rebounding the ball," Pitino said.
Williams hit a pair of threes, and Knowles hit one too, as the Cards quickly opened up a 50-36 lead on their old Conference USA rival.
The Blazers (8-4), who had previously lost to Cincinnati, Boston College and No. 4 Oklahoma, trimmed Louisville's lead to 11 with six minutes to play. But the Cards outscored UAB 18-9 the rest of the game. McGee scored 10 of his 13 points in the second half.
"We just weren't ready to play," said UAB coach Mike Davis, who once famously ran onto the Freedom Hall floor while he was coaching Indiana in a game against UK. "The team we played today was much more prepared than we were. They played with passion and had a relentless approach to it and we played afraid early. If Vaden doesn't make those four threes it could have been over early...They sped us up and we knew they would, and instead of taking great shots we took the first open look and we didn't respond to them. They did a great job."
UofL shot 50 percent (31 of 62) from the field, while UAB hit 45.6 percent (26 of 57) of its shots. But the Blazers were just 2-for-8 (25 percent) from three-point range in the second half after hitting 5 of 8 (62.5 percent) in the first 20 minutes.
"We did a great job tonight in our zone of really playing intelligently," Pitino said.
UofL hosts UNLV at 6 p.m. Wednesday.