Louisville starts off slow, hammers W. Kentucky
Posted: Thursday December 4, 2003 11:05PM; Updated: Thursday December 4, 2003 11:46PM
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Rick Pitino has had his Louisville Cardinals studying how the NBA's Sacramento Kings space themselves on the floor and pass the ball among themselves.
For one night, consider the lesson learned.
Luke Whitehead scored 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead seven Cardinals in double figures, and Louisville routed Western Kentucky 93-63 Thursday night for its first victory of the season.
"It was one of those nights where we just played, not only pretty well, but we played as intelligent in creating mismatches to our benefit," Pitino said. "We kept attacking those mismatches and getting easy shots in our motion."
The Cardinals (1-1) more than made up for the overtime loss last weekend to Iowa that dropped them from their No. 17 ranking to one place outside the Top 25 by keeping Western Kentucky (0-4) winless.
Kendall Dartez, held scoreless in the opener, scored 13 for the Cardinals. Francisco Garcia, Alhaji Mohammed, Taquan Dean and Nate Daniels each had 11. Larry O'Bannon added 10.
Louisville also had 24 assists among eight players, and shot 53.7 percent (36-of-67) for the game.
"We just had a great night," Pitino said.
The Cardinals hadn't played Western Kentucky since the Hilltoppers beat them 68-65 in Freedom Hall in December 2000, and these teams hadn't met on a neutral court since the 1952 NIT in New York.
But the Cardinals agreed to play here, 59 miles south of Western Kentucky's home in Bowling Green, Ky., to fulfill their end of a home-and-home contract that began in 2000-01. The Hilltoppers still hold a 38-33 edge in the overall series, but it may be a while before they try to negotiate a new contract.
"We played an extremely quick, athletic and talented basketball team tonight and they brought a great deal of energy, really turned up the pressure and did a good job," Western Kentucky coach Darrin Horn said.
Louisville started slowly, hitting only four of its first 11 shots. Western Kentucky, with its fans accounting for about half of the 12,120 in attendance, even led 17-11 as Nigel Dixon scored underneath halfway through the first half.
The Hilltoppers last led 28-27 on another bucket by Dixon.
Pitino brought Mohammed off the bench to help clamp down on Anthony Winchester, the Hilltoppers' shooting guard. Winchester finished with 10 points on 4-of-17 shooting.
"We went with defense just because of our respect for Winchester," Pitino said.
Whitehead started the Cardinals on an 18-2 run with a pair of free throws, Mohammed added another pair and Dean hit a 3-pointer from the right corner for a 34-28 halftime lead.
Louisville picked up where it left off, hitting six of its first nine shots in the second half. Mohammed finished the spurt with a dunk for a 45-30 edge with 17:34 left in the game, and the Cardinals just kept adding to their lead to win for the 17th time in 19 games in this series.
They led twice by 33, the last on a 3-pointer by Nate Daniels with 9.9 seconds left.
Horn said his Hilltoppers, who lost four starters from last season's Sun Belt Conference champion squad, showed their lack of experience when Louisville turned up the pressure defensively.
"Credit Louisville for that. They played extremely hard. They played very well, and they're an outstanding basketball team," Horn said.
The Cardinals lost starting center Otis George with 5:40 left in the first half to a bruised hip. George went up to block a shot near the basket, was bumped and landed awkwardly on his side.
Dixon finished his second game this season with a team-high 15 points. Mike Wells added 14 for the Hilltoppers followed by Antonio Haynes with 13.