Cards use strong second half to blitz USF

No. 7 Louisville (16-3, 7-0) broke open a one-point game at halftime with a 29-5 run to begin the second half, then knocked out visiting South Florida 80-54 Wednesday night at Freedom Hall.

For one half of basketball the University of Louisville men had something in common with the city.

For the most part they both lacked electricity.

But sparked by a halftime speech by Terrence Williams, as well as the ball-hawking defense of Preston Knowles and Andre McGee, the Cardinals shocked South Florida with a 22-3 run to start the second half on their way to a 80-54 win Wednesday night in front of 17,184 fans, who braved the outside conditions, at Freedom Hall.

"The second half was more like the way we've been playing," UofL coach Rick Pitino said. "(Knowles and McGee) set the tone right away with two steals that led to two dunks by Samardo (Samuels), and the dam was open for us."

Edgar Sosa scored 11 of his team-high 16 points in the second half as the seventh-ranked Cards (16-3, 7-0) won their eighth straight game to remain in a first-place tie with Marquette atop the Big East standings.


Samuels added 14 points and Earl Clark 12 points and seven rebounds.

"We just wanted to come out with a lot of intensity (in the second half), because we knew we weren't playing to the best of our ability," Clark said.

Meanwhile T-Will had just five points, on 2-for-10 shooting, including 2-for-9 in the first half. The latter was the reason why he came out early in the game, and also gathered his teammates together on the court just before the second half started.

"He came out with a speech talking about how he was going to take it upon himself (to get the team going) in the second half," Knowles said. "And I think everybody tuned into that."

Despite his poor shooting T-Will finished with 10 rebounds and six assists, including the possible player of the season so far - a between-the-legs bounce pass to Clark for a dunk that highlighted the second-half surge.

UofL, which beat USF 71-57 three weeks ago, led just 33-32 at halftime in spite of 53.8 percent (14-for-26) shooting by the Bulls, including 7 of 12 by guard Dominique Jones, who had 15 first-half points.

Looking to ignite his team Pitino inserted Knowles and McGee into the lineup to start the second half. The move paid off immediately as the Cards opened up with eight straight points - back-to-back dunks by Samuels, a jumper by Knowles and a dunk by Clark.

"They give us that every game," Sosa said of the lift by Knowles and McGee. "They play so well together, especially on the press."

Added Knowles: "When we get in the game we try to bring some energy defensively, and that gets the other players going offensively."

USF's Chris Howard hit a three to end the run, and make it 41-35, but then the Cards reeled off 14 straight points. It started with T-Will's spectacular pass to Clark for the dunk.

"I can't wait to watch ESPN later and see it again," Scott said afterward.

That play was followed by four straight three-pointers by Jerry Smith, Sosa, Jared Swopshire and Sosa again to give UofL a 55-35 lead.

It was over from there as the Cards scored 22 points off of 12 USF turnovers in the second half as they finished with 53 deflections - a stat Pitino praised in his post-game press conference.

How good was it for the Cards in the second half?

Senior guard Will Scott, who earlier in the day learned that he had been accepted to study at Oxford University, hit a three-pointer. Freshman center George Goode got a rebound-dunk, and little-used reserve Lee Steiden saw his first action of the season.

UofL next hosts West Virginia at noon Saturday.

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