Samuels treated his mother, father, older brother and younger sister, and the rest of the 18,894 fans in attendance at Freedom Hall, to 29 points and 15 rebounds - both career-highs - in UofL's 84-69 win over the Ragin' Cajuns.
"Tonight was just a night that I wanted to come out and play basketball, because Christmas is coming and my family is here," Samuels said. "My mom and dad were going back and forth about my rebounding and my mom said, ‘Let's go out there and show them you can rebound. Just go out and play hard.'"
Samuels dominated the interior, making 10 of his 16 field goal attempts and 9 of 15 free throw tries, as the Cards (8-3) outscored Louisiana-Lafayette 44-10 in the paint and outrebounded the Ragin' Cajuns 48-30. Samuels led UofL's offense rebounding effort, grabbing nine of the Cards' 25 caroms. Meanwhile sophomore forward Kyle Kuric also set career-highs in scoring (13 points) and rebounding (seven), including five on the offensive end.
"Without question offensive rebounding won us the game tonight," UofL coach Rick Pitino said. "Our shooting was off tonight, but our offensive rebounding was like our second offense...Samardo and Kyle Kuric did a tremendous job of doing that tonight."
Louisiana-Lafayette (4-7), which was picked to finish third in the Sun Belt Conference's West Division, took its second - and last - lead of the game (at 17-16) on Ryan McCoy's three-pointer with 10:37 left in the first half. The Cardinals answered, though, with a 15-2 run.
UofL started the surge with eight straight points - a three-pointer by Preston Knowles, a dunk from Samuels and a basket by freshman forward Rakeem Buckles. Louisiana-Lafayette's Tyren Johnson broke up the spurt with a jumper, but Samuels and Kuric scored four points apiece. Samuels' layup with 5:37 remaining in the half gave the Cards a 31-19 lead.
UofL led 38-31 at halftime thanks to 13 points from Samuels as the Cards outscored the Ragin' Cajuns 20-6 in the paint and outrebounded them 29-14. Knowles added 11 for UofL, which shot 39.5 percent (15 for 38).
Louisiana-Lafayette, which returned all five starters from last season, cut the Cards' lead to five early in the second half. However UofL opened up an 18-point lead thanks in large part to 16 second-half points from Samuels, who was played 38 minutes due to the suspension to reserve center Terrence Jennings (afterward Pitino said he wasn't sure how long Jennings would be out).
Still the Ragin' Cajuns cut the Cards' lead to nine (72-63) with 3:38 to play, but Kuric scored five of UofL's final 12 points. Samuels sealed the deal with a dunk with 1:32 left.
"I got an early Christmas gift, my mom and family coming in," Samuels said. "Now I get a nice home-cooked meal."
Louisville next hosts Radford at 1 p.m. Sunday.