UofL improved its Big East record to 3-0. With Villanova invading the Hall Monday night for a major ESPN clash, the Cardinals are riding a hot-streak having won six of their last seven games.
The Cardinals played hard in the opening period but couldn't find the mark against St. John's, hitting just 33 percent in the first half. But Edgar Sosa hit a trio of three-pointers in the second half and Samardo Samuels controlled the boards as Louisville pulled away for its 12th win of the season.
The Cardinals steadily took control in the second half, making eleven of their first 22 shots. When Edgar Sosa drilled his second three-pointer at 7:51, Louisville moved out to a 58-46 lead. St. John's never got closer than seven points the rest of the way.
"I thought the key to the game was Preston and Kyle Kuric," Pitino said. "Kyle made so many good plays on the backboard that it kept our emotions high and Preston made some key plays. I took Edgar out of the lineup because we needed to make a run in the first three minutes of the [second half]. The only way to do that was on defense."
Knowles finished with 12 points, hitting 6 of 11 shots. Kuric grabbed eight rebounds, including five offensive boards. The Cardinals had 19 offensive rebounds in the game and scored 18 second chance points, five more than St. John's.
"[The other] key to the game for us was the offensive glass," Pitino said. "We did a great job on the offensive boards getting second opportunities."
Jerry Smith led Louisville with 16 points, hitting 12 of 14 free throws. Samardo Samuels had nine points and 11 rebounds, while Edgar Sosa scored nine points, all in the second frame.
"Edgar came back and played terrific basketball," Pitino said. "He gave us a big lift. When he came back in the second half he played brilliant. He ran the plays to perfection. He just came out in the first five minutes and didn't understand how St. John's was going to play. He thought it was a finesse game."
Sophomore Jared Swopshire chipped in 15 points and made two key second half three pointers.
"Jared Swopshire has gotten a lot better," Pitino said. "He's improving at a rapid pace. He did some terrific things tonight. Kyle's improving, guys are getting better."
Louisville has a quick turnaround for an important game against sixth-ranked Villanova on ESPN's Big Monday.