No. 2 Louisville showed off its 3-point shooting prowess.
The Cardinals came out hitting early and often in an 80-39 rout of Miami (Ohio) on Sunday.
Louisville (3-0) finished 12 of 26 from the perimeter (46 percent) and eight of its first nine baskets were 3-pointers.
The Cardinals’ 41-point victory margin was their largest since a 106-65 victory over Chattanooga on two years ago.
”People have been harping on our shooting the whole time,” Cardinals guard Luke Hancock said, ”but when we’re getting open looks and running the floor as a team, we can make shots.”
Russ Smith provided the spark by hitting one 54 seconds in and he finished a career-best five of seven from long distance for a game-high 23 points. The junior guard has been the leading scorer in all three Cardinals victories and is averaging 21.3 points per game.
Sophomore Wayne Blackshear started for the second consecutive game at small forward and made a career-high four 3-pointers. He also grabbed a career-best six rebounds.
Senior center Gorgui Dieng added 11 points and nine rebounds and senior guard Peyton Siva matched a career high with 10 assists for the Cardinals, who shot 48 percent overall.
Louisville’s defense was just as impressive. The Cardinals held Miami (1-2) to 30 percent shooting and forced 19 turnovers, and that seemed pleased coach Rick Pitino the most.
”We are a defensive team,” he said. ”We win with our defense. If we shoot like we did tonight, everything looks great. Shooting, without question, cures a multitude of sins. …
”That is not us. I am happy we shot it well. I am happy we moved the ball well, but we win because of defense.”
Geovonie McKnight and Bill Edwards both scored seven points for the Redhawks.
”Obviously they did a terrific job,” Miami coach John Cooper said. ”They were just so much better than we were. Of course, we couldn’t score but I attribute most of that to their defense, certainly.”
With Thursday’s game against Northern Iowa beginning a challenging stretch of competition in the conclusion of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas, shooting was among many things Louisville wanted to address.
The tough field includes No. 9 Duke, No. 14 Missouri and No. 17 Memphis, while Stanford, VCU and Minnesota received votes.
Part of Pitino’s objective during the three-game homestand was finding a good starting combination and that might explain why Louisville started its third different lineup against Miami.
The Cardinals began with Smith, Siva, Dieng, Chane Behanan and Blackshear while using Hancock as a reserve.
His other goal was seeing whether his team could sustain energy from start to finish. Pitino was clearly concerned by his team’s finish Thursday against Samford: despite winning by 26 and backing off the full-court press, Louisville was outscored 41-38 and allowed 50 percent shooting.
The Cardinals’ lineup got off to a good start. Eight of Louisville’s first nine field goals were 3-pointers and the Cardinals finished the first half better from outside the arc (9 of 16) than inside (3 of 13).
They hit five during a 23-2 run that made it 33-12, including three in row by Smith en route to a 14-point half. Helping that stretch was Louisville’s press that disrupted the Miami guards, while its zone thwarted the Redhawks’ hopes of getting the ball inside.
Miami shot just 24 percent, committed nine turnovers and were outrebounded 22-17.
”We didn’t play it (the zone) too much, ”Pitino said. ”But it was good, we had a few good moments of it.”
Louisville’s 39-17 halftime lead grew to 49-17 as the Cardinals kept up the press and forced four turnovers leading to easy, shorter shots.
And the 3-pointers kept falling, including another by Smith while falling out of bounds that made it 57-20.
”We just get in the gym and work every day,” freshman forward Montrezl Harrell said. ”We told guys not to get their heads down, just keep shooting the ball and eventually it’s going to go in.”
Miami improved in the second half, but couldn’t keep up with Louisville, which outscored the Redhawks 41-22.