University of Louisville coach Rick Pitino was not happy with his team's shot selection in Saturday's less-than-impressive victory over East Tennessee State and he said so, both to his team and to the media.
The Cardinals took their coach's displeasure to heart Sunday in their Hall of Fame Showcase game and instead of settling for three-pointers, as they did the day before, they repeatedly got to the free throw line.
UofL hit 33 of 41 foul shots on its way to a 90-81 win over Morgan State in front of 18,942 fans at Freedom Hall.
"Better performance tonight than last night in terms of what we were trying to accomplish," Pitino said. "Our guys did a better job tonight of driving and getting to the foul line."
Sophomore center Samardo Samuels led the way with a game-high 23 points, making 6 of 12 shots and 11 of 15 free throws, and a team-high 12 rebounds. Junior guard Preston Knowles added 13 points, five rebounds, five assists and four steals, while senior guard Edgar Sosa tallied 12 points.
"We learned a lot from yesterday's game," added freshman guard Peyton Siva, who had nine points off the bench. "We attacked the basket more and got to the free throw line."
The 20th-ranked Cards (3-0), who were 6-for-30 from three-point range Saturday, were just 5 of 12 from long range against the Bears (3-1), the reigning Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champs. Instead UofL made 12 of 14 free throws in the first half and 21 of 27 in the second.
"Obviously if a team shoots 41 free throws they're going to be tough to beat," Morgan State coach Todd Bozeman said. "When you look at the stats we were even with them on three-pointers and I think we made more field goals. Free throws kind of beat us up. When you're on the road sometimes that happens. Obviously they're a good team, they shoot the ball well from the three-point line.
"Louisville is a very good team. They're going to have an outstanding season, I'm just glad we don't have to play them again."
Four Bear starters fouled out, including senior guard Reggie Holmes, who came in averaging 25.3 points per game. The Cards held Holmes to only nine points on 4 for 12 shooting.
"Our guys did a good job, holding him to nine points," Pitino said.
Knowles got UofL off and rolling early with a three-pointer 14 seconds into the game then another jumper moments later.
Morgan State rallied back to take its lone lead of the game, at 11-10. Samuels gave Louisville back the lead with a pair of free throws.
Samuels scored 11 points, and grabbed six rebounds, in the first half to lead Louisville to a 50-35 lead. The Cards connected on 45.9 percent (17 of 37) of their shots in the first 20 minutes, while Morgan State made 40.6 percent (13 of 32).
The Bears scored the first four points of the second half, but Samuels responded with one of the highlights plays of the game. Taking the ball out of bounds underneath his team's basket Samuels threw the ball in off the back of Morgan State's Rodney Stokes, grabbed the ball back and dunked it.
The Bears, though, stuck around. They trimmed Louisville's lead to five (65-60) near the midway point of the second half. But the Cards used a 10-2 spurt late to take command. The run was highlighted by a breakaway dunk by freshman forward Rakeem Buckles.
Forward DeWayne Jackson scored 21 points to lead Morgan State, which shot 40.8 percent (29 of 71) from the field, but made 18 of 24 free throws (75 percent).
"We made a few mistakes fouling them down the stretch, because they are a good free-throw shooting team," Pitino said. "We are learning and getting better and it's baby steps with this team because we are extremely young and our older guys are not our better defensive players and that is also a problem. They are really good offensive players, but not as good defensively. It is just going to take some time and some patience."
The Cards close out play in the Hall of Fame Showcase at 7 p.m. Monday night against Appalachian State.