Cards blitz Friars in second half

No. 7 Louisville (20-5, 11-2) raced past Providence 94-76 with a strong second half effort after trailing the Friars 46-45 at halftime to remain in contention atop the Big East standings.

It was Terrence Williams and dogged defense to the rescue Wednesday night for the University of Louisville.

After the Providence Friars fried the nets in the first half - shooting 75 percent - the Cardinals needed a pick-me-up in the second half.

They got it from T-Will and their D, as they posted a 94-76 win over Providence in front of 19,484 fans at Freedom Hall to remain in the thick of the Big East Conference race.

"Besides almost having an aneurysm at halftime it was a very good game," UofL coach Rick Pitino said. "It was a great second half."

The seventh-ranked Cards (20-5, 11-2) are now in a three-way tie (along with Pittsburgh and Marquette) for second in the Big East, a half-game behind No. 1 Connecticut. They earned that spot by outscoring the Friars 49-30 in the second half while shooting 53.3 percent and limiting Providence to just 30 percent from the field.

"We made them take tough shots, the first half they were hitting everything," junior forward Earl Clark said.

Clark narrowly missed a triple-double for the second straight game - 13 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists - and was one of six Cards to score in double digits. Junior guard Edgar Sosa led the way for Louisville with 18 points, while Williams and freshman center Samardo Samuels added 17 apiece.

T-Will was especially effective after being slowed by a right wrist injury the last few games. The senior forward was back in the starting lineup after a one-game absence and re-inserted himself into the Big East Player of the Year debate.

He scored 11 points in the second half, but had just three points in UofL's decisive 13-0 spurt early in the second half that gave the Cards control of the game. Still it was his energy and enthusiasm during that time that helped ignite the Cards, as well as the home crowd.

"Like I told Earl and T-Will both, this is the time of year you have to start playing like an NBA basketball player," Pitino said. "And T-Will did tonight, and Earl did too to a certain extent."

The Friars (16-10, 8-6) went without a field goal for a near 10-minute stretch of the second half as UofL turned a three-point deficit (53-50) into a 16-point lead (72-56). Sophomore Preston Knowles and senior Andre McGee sparked that spurt with their defensive pressure on Providence's guards. The Friars had 13 turnovers in the second half as the Cards outscored Providence 20-3 in points off of turnovers after intermission.

"We had 34 deflections and Preston had 12, and that's a lot for one player," Pitino said. "Andre and Preston both did a very good job."

"Preston, he loves defense," Williams said. "He's like a firework."

Added Clark: "He's like a toaster, all you have to do is turn him on."

Both teams were on in the first half. Providence led 46-45 at halftime by making 18 of 24 shots to spite UofL's 55.9 percent 19 of 34) shooting.

"They are a great offensive basketball team, they are Notre Dame on steroids," Pitino said.

Senior guard Weyinmi Efejuku tallied 10 points in the first half for the Friars. He, Sharaud Curry and Jonathan Kale paced Providence with 15 points apiece.

"For 20 minutes we played we had a chance out there, but then obviously they showed they were a better team than we are right now," Providence coach Keno Davis said.

UofL next plays at Cincinnati at 2:04 p.m. Saturday.

Cardinal Authority Top Stories