Cards Stone ECU, 87-70
GREENVILLE, NC - Louisville entered last night's game at East Carolina seeking to avenge a 10-point loss here a season ago, and emerged with a decisive 87-70 victory in front of a capacity crowd of 8,056 at Minges Coliseum.
Louisville Coach Rick Pitino had touted East Carolina as having the strongest home court advantage in Conference USA, saying he would prefer to try to win a game at North Carolina than at East Carolina. His Cardinal squad found the perfect neutralizer to that home court edge as they overcame an early 4-0 deficit to race to a 10-4 lead within the game's first five minutes, quieting the crowd for most of the game.
Unlike most games this season in which Louisville has waited until the second half to build a large lead, the Cardinals began dominating this contest early. Louisville's defense forced 9 first-half turnovers by East Carolina and held the Pirates to 29.6% shooting from the field in the half, including 1 of 9 from three-point range.
Louisville's first-half production was well-balanced as 9 players scored between 2 and 8 points en route to a 45-26 cushion at the break. Louisville's bench outscored East Carolina's bench 21-3 in the first half and 25-14 for the game.
Any hopes East Carolina had for a comeback were quickly eliminated as Louisville spent the first 6 minutes of the second half on a 20-8 run to build a 31-point lead. Louisville center Marvin Stone (23 points, 9 rebounds) led the run with 10 points, including slam dunks to open and close the run and a third dunk midway through.
At that point Louisville's defense softened and East Carolina successfully attacked the basket for much of the remainder of the game, chipping away at Louisville's lead with a 26-9 run to close within 74-60. East Carolina held Louisville to three field goals during the 9-minute run.
Pitino used a timeout and Louisville regrouped to stop the run and improve to 11-1 on the season and 3-0 in C-USA.
Louisville shot 58.1% for the game while holding East Carolina to 38.3% overall and 19.0% from three-point range. East Carolina entered the game holding its opponents to an average of 38.4% shooting and 63.1 points.
Stone's 23 points on 9-of-11 shooting led all scorers in the game while Reece Gaines added 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting. No other Louisville player finished with more than 8 points.
Gaines climbed to 13th on Louisville's career scoring list with 1591 points, passing Wesley Cox, Butch Beard, and Everick Sullivan. He needs 24 points to pass Lancaster Gordon for 12th place.
Louisville, ranked 15th in the Associated Press poll, helped prevent an upset by winning the rebounding battle 38-37, led by Ellis Myles with 10 rebounds. In a 73-70 upset of Marquette here earlier this season, East Carolina had outrebounded the Golden Eagles 43-31.
The win was Louisville's fourth road win this season, already exceeding last year's total of three. Louisville returns to action quickly with a home game tomorrow against the Texas Christian Horned Frogs. Tip-off is scheduled for noon.
|Louisville 87, East Carolina 70|