LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- It was the last Big Monday game in the Big East as we know it, but it might've been more worthy of Friday Night Fights.
When Cincinnati and Louisville meet lately, it's a slugfest. But in this physical matchup of longtime rivals, U of L got some second-half separation thanks to a few big plays by Luke Hancock, then smothered the Bearcats with defense, depth and drives to the hoop to pull away for a 67-51 victory in the KFC Yum! Center.
The win was the sixth straight for U of L, which improved to 25-5 overall, 13-4 in the Big East, and probably marked the Cards' most hard-nosed effort of the season. And it was Pitino's 300th win at U of L. After getting a bit teary-eyed watching a video recap of his U of L career, Pitino said, "I can't think of anywhere outside of heaven I'd rather spend 300 wins than with you."
The game continued the emergence of Kevin Ware, who came on in the second half when Peyton Siva picked up his fourth foul with just over 11 minutes left, and helped key the Cards' decisive run.
"Our second unit guys twice gave us big momentum," Pitino said.
The game was tied at 37-37 when Hancock broke a 4 1/2-minute U of L scoring drought with a short runner in the lane. After a Cincinnati free throw on its next trip, it would not manage a field goal for the next 4:12, and U of L scored seven straight points to pull ahead. It was the beginning of a 23-6 run.
After his runner against the UC zone, Hancock hit a three on U of L's next possession. After a steal and long pass ahead to Hancock, he found Behanan for a lob slam that put U of L up 44-38 with 13:31 left, and forced Mick Cronin to use his next-to-last timeout.
Cronin, who used his final timeout with 9:51 to play, had no way to stop the bleeding down the stretch, and UC never got closer than 13 in the final nine minutes.
Read more on the game from Rick Bozich and Eric Crawford coming up on WDRB.com, and watch analysis from them and the rest of the WDRB Sports team at 10:45 on WDRB-41.