Cards start slow, rally past Saint Louis 73-55
Louisville rallied from a first half deficit to outdistance St. Louis 73-54 in front of 19,486 fans in Freedom Hall in their Conference USA home opener.
The Cardinals (10-1, 2-0) fell behind 19-6 early in the game but rallied to cut the lead to 26-24 at halftime, despite getting just five field goals in the first half. The Cards stayed in the game hitting 12 of 19 free throws in the first stanza.
"Tonight was disturbing because of what we did in the first half," said U of L head coach Rick Pitino. "We have to understand that we have to get good shots down the floor each time in order to make our defense a factor."
The second half belonged to Gaines.
The senior scored 17 of his game high 23 points after the intermission, after struggling on 1 of 7 shooting in the first half.
"I told Reece at halftime 'you're not off, you're just not taking good shots'." Pitino said.
The Cards opened the second half with a basket from Erik Brown to tie it at 26-26 and then a steal and a Reece Gaines lay-up gave the Cardinals their first lead at 28-26 with 18:28 remaining.
Back-to-back baskets from the Billikens gave St. Louis a 30-28 lead, and the Cards went on a 22-7 run to lead 50-37 with 9:22.
Brown started the run with a three pointer from the wing, but Drew Diener answered with a three to tie it. Marvin Stone scored in the paint and Anthony Drejaj answered to tie it for the final time at 35-35.
Gaines answered with a jumper and Francisco Garcia followed with a three-point basket. After Gaines hit two free throws and Kendall Dartez hit 1 of 2, St. Louis cut the lead to 43-37 on a basket by Drejaj. Gaines scored inside, Dartez made 1 of 2 from the foul line, Luke Whitehead got a breakaway dunk and then Gaines hit a jump shot to give Louisville a 13-point lead.
"We executed our offense better in the second half and our
half court defense was very good," said Pitino.
Said Garcia: "When we came in the locker room coach told us we just needed to execute our plays and that we had to do it in the second half to win this game."
For the game, the Cards shot 43.4% from the field and hit 5 of 20 from beyond the arc. Louisville out rebounded the Billikens 41-34 and held St. Louis 34.6 percent from the field.
In addition to Gaines 23, Stone added 10 and Garcia 13 for Louisville.
Drejaj lead St. Louis (6-7, 0-2) with 16 points, but leading
scorer Marque Perry was held to only seven points
The Cards will be back in action Thursday night when they visit East Carolina for a 9 p.m. tip off on ESPN2.
The victory over St. Louis snapped a four game losing streak to
the Billikens and was the first victory for a Pitino-coached Louisville team
over St. Louis.
Joshua Tinch scored his first points as a Louisville Cardinal when he put back his own miss with seven seconds left.
"When I missed that first one I was like 'Oh man, there goes my chance,' but the second one came through," said Tinch.
Former Fairdale standout Coric Riggs saw his first collegiate experience when he entered the game with 42.1 seconds left. Riggs, a former Sixth Region player-of-the-year is a walk on who has sit out due to academic reasons.
The victory was the Cardinals ninth straight and marked Pitino's 29th win as the Cardinal coach.
|Saint Louis 6-7||26||28||54|
|(19) Louisville 10-1||26||49||73|
|Technical Fouls: None|
|Deadball Rebounds: 7|
|Technical Fouls: None|
|Deadball Rebounds: 4|
23 - 53 (43.4%)
18 - 52 (34.6%)
5 - 20 (25.0%)
5 - 16 (31.2%)
22 - 35 (62.9%)
13 - 22 (59.1%)
41 (15 - 26)
34 (12 - 22)