Louisville (21-5, 12-2 Big East) has been smarting from a 33-point loss to Notre Dame on Feb. 12 that prompted coach Rick Pitino to confiscate their practice gear. They have won three in a row since, the latest ranking as the best of the bunch.
Big East regular-season title
after beating Cincinnati 72-63.
Williams, who was hobbled by a sprained right wrist for three games, showed he's fully recovered by scoring from everywhere on the court and starting a decisive 12-2 run in the second half.
Alvin Mitchell scored 14 points for Cincinnati (17-10, 7-7), which fell to 1-5 against ranked teams.
Maybe now the Cardinals can get their practice duds back.
Pitino purged the locker room of all Louisville-stamped practice gear following that stunning loss to Notre Dame. Instead of their snazzy white-and-red practice jerseys, the Cardinals were consigned to bottom-shelf apparel -- plain shirts and shorts. Why, Pitino even took away their Adidas socks.
When would they get them back? When they beat somebody on the road. After dominant wins over DePaul and Providence at Freedom Hall, the Cardinals hit the road on Saturday with their gear up for grabs.
Pitino, dressed nattily in a dark suit, blue shirt and red checkered tie, got more worked up as his team frittered away chances to take control in the first half. The Cardinals led by as many as seven points, but gave the ball away on four of five possessions during one stretch, allowing Cincinnati to keep it close.
There were five ties and six lead changes in the half, which ended with Louisville up 37-34. Louisville opened the second half with a driving layup by Earl Clark and a dunk by Samardo Samuels, an indication that its front line was about to take over the game.
The 6-foot-8 Samuels provided a tone-setting moment with 13 minutes to go when he shook loose inside for a basket and drew a foul. Samuels missed the free throw, but Louisville got the rebound and went right back to Samuels, who missed a shot, got the rebound in a crowd and put it in for a 51-45 lead.
Williams had a putback and a 3-pointer that stretched the lead to 60-51 with 8:37 to go, starting the decisive 12-3 spurt. A 3-pointer by Preston Knowles finished the run and made it 67-54.
The Bearcats also made a fashion statement, wearing special red uniforms for the second time this season. Their first time in all red produced a double-digit loss to crosstown rival Xavier.
That's been a season-long pattern for the Bearcats, who entered the discussion of possible NCAA tournament teams by winning five of their last seven games. The Bearcats didn't have a bad loss along the way, but didn't have a signature win, either. Their only win over a ranked team came over a Georgetown team that's been in a free-fall.