University of Louisville Cardinal basketball fans left the KFC Yum! Center with smiles on their faces as Rick Pitino’s squad smashed the Samford Bulldogs 80-54. Before Thursday night’s game, the teams had never met. The Dogs can’t exactly be hankering for a rematch after this drubbing.
The Cards were in control from the outset, taking advantage of the size mismatches along the front line. Samford’s tallest post player, Tim Williams, stands 6-8. He scored 4 points in the first half. Louisville’s Gorgui Dieng goes 6-11. He scored 10 points in that half. Add a smothering defense that held the Bulldogs to just 13 points and you have the makings of the blowout it was expected to be. The Cardinals dominated with 24 points in the paint before halftime. Samford didn’t score a single point inside.
In fact, the Bulldogs shot just 22.2% in the first stanza while the Cards shot at a 41.7% pace. The home team’s long ball woes continued, though, with Louisville going just 1 of 8 from behind the 3 point arc. Luke Hancock, still hampered by the shoulder injury he’s recovering from couldn’t find the range despite 3 tries from downtown. He missed 9 of 10 for the game and continues to struggle to find the shooting magic that Pitino insists exists. The coach says that once the injury is fully behind him and his confidence comes back, Hancock will be that outside presence.
After halftime, Samford came out in a zone defense and gave the Cards some trouble. They used it and an improved shooting touch to try to chip away at the Louisville lead. Every potential run was countered, however. The Bulldogs put together a 41 point second half effort, but didn’t get close.
Meanwhile, rebounds were a point of emphasis for UofL and Chane Behanan delivered in a big way. He finished with 18 boards, 9 off the offensive glass. Dieng pulled down 13 rebounds and 10 of his were on the offensive end. The game held double-double’s for both big men. Fellow front line starter Wayne Blackshear finished with 13 points and 5 rebounds.
Louisville’s Russ Smith came off the bench to lead all scorers with 18 points including 4 triples. Even though he made his own highlight reel, Coach Pitino is concerned that the junior guard didn’t have any assists, meaning he created shots for himself, but not for his teammates. That’s part of the reason the Cards only shot 38.9% for the game. When the competitive level picks up, Louisville will have to get that percentage higher.
Louisville returns to the KFC Yum! Center on Sunday to take on the Miami (Ohio) Redhawks at 4pm before leaving for the Bahamas next week to play in the Battle 4 Atlantis.
Photos: Louisville.com/Tim Girton