No. 16 Louisville beats Utah Valley 98-68
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Louisville guard Trey Lewis said it can be difficult to maintain focus for a full game when holding a big lead against an outclassed opponent, like in the 16th-ranked Cardinals' 98-68 victory over Utah Valley on Wednesday night.
''In bigger games, that takes care of itself,'' Lewis said after leading the Cardinals with 21 points. ''You're not going to let up for one possession.''
By that logic, Louisville (11-1) shouldn't have any problem locking in for the rest of the season. An early season parade of pushovers has come and gone and a trip to archrival Kentucky awaits on Saturday in Louisville's final non-conference game before Atlantic Coast Conference play.
Louisville leads the country in outscoring opponents by an average of 30 points a game. Each of their wins has come by 20 or more points. Their only true test came in a four-point loss at now-No. 1 Michigan State that slipped away.
''Now they're going to see some real competition and going to be able to see what we're all about right now,'' Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. ''I know offensively we'll be ready. We just have to really shore up our defense.''
Louisville made 18 of its first 24 shots and shot 69 percent from the field in the first half (20 of 29) to blow past Utah Valley, one night after an out-of-sync showing in beating UMKC.
Konner Frey led Utah Valley (5-8) with 17 points and Marcel Davis added 15. Seven Cardinals scored at least eight points.
The Cardinals finished 31 of 56 (55 percent) from the field and hit nine 3s. Utah Valley shot 40 percent.
Louisville scored the game's first eight points in taking a 13-2 lead in the first 4 minutes. Utah Valley cut the lead to seven points on Ivory Young III's three-point play with 13:16 then Louisville went on a 12-2 run, capped by Donovan Mitchell's 3-pointer with 10:39 left that made it 31-14. The Cardinals led 59-31 at halftime.
Louisville's 8-0 run following a drive by Davis to start the half made it 67-33 with 17:27 to play. Frey's 3 with 8:05 to play cut Louisville's lead to 80-51 before the Cardinals scored nine straight in less than 2 minutes. The Wolverines outscored Louisville 15-5 in the game's final 5 minutes.
''We know the deck is stacked against us, but the one thing we've done successfully is play hard,'' Utah Valley coach Mark Pope said.
Wednesday's matchup closed out the Billy Minardi Classic.
Lewis hit three 3s and finished 7 of 10 from the field, earning MVP honors of the four-team event after leading Louisville with 17 points on Tuesday. The event also featured UMKC and UNC Wilmington and is named after Pitino's brother-in-law who was killed during the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack.
Louisville fans chanted ''Beat UK'' in the game's final minutes. Saturday's trip to Lexington could offer a measuring stick for the Cardinals' potential this year.
''When you play higher competition, that brings out the competitor inside of you,'' Lewis said. ''I think we have that type of team that when we're challenged we're going to rise to the occasion.''
Utah Valley: The Wolverines had won three straight before losses on consecutive days. ... Pope, in his first year, is one of five former Pitino players who are active coaches in college.
Louisville: The Cardinals have started with at least a 10-1 record through 11 games for the sixth consecutive year. ... Louisville wore spearmint green Adidas shoes for the game, part of the company's Christmas collection.
The return of 7-foot forward Anas Mahmoud bolstered Louisville's frontline. Mahmoud had missed the past three games with a sprained ankle but he made his presence felt early with four blocks in the first half.
Six-foot-10 Mangok Mathiang broke his foot in Saturday's win against Western Kentucky and is expected to miss 6 to 8 weeks.
Utah Valley visits Saint Mary's on Monday.
Louisville visits No. 12 Kentucky on Saturday.