CRAWFORD | Cards are lights out early in knockout of Cornell
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The lights in the KFC Yum! Center malfunctioned after the starting lineups for last night's basketball game between the University of Louisville and Cornell, and the game was about 20 minutes late tipping off.
When they came back up, the No. 3-ranked Cardinals wasted little time turning the lights back out on visiting Cornell, sprinting to a 22-2 lead on their way to a 99-54 victory.
It was a night for history -- the win was U of L's 19th in a row, dating back to last season's NCAA Championship run, a new school record. It also was the 1,700th victory in school history, in the program's 100th season. U of L's previous longest winning streak came during its 1980 championship season.
History yes, drama no. U of L coach Rick Pitino said teams like Cornell "keep me up all night." But the winless Big Red never had a chance. U of L led 53-14 at half, the largest halftime lead of Pitino's U of L tenure. For the game, U of L made more layups or dunks (21) than Cornell had field goals (19).
Cornell's first-half point total matched the fifth-lowest for a U of L opponent in more than 40 years. And it took a Cornell three-pointer with 39 seconds left in the half to keep it from matching the lowest.
"We watched these guys and prepared really hard because against Syracuse they were up six at halftime and against Binghamton they were up 19 in the second half," Pitino said. "They'd been jumping on teams with the three-point shot, and we didn't want to give that up. So our guys were well-prepared to go against them and didn't take them lightly at all.
"(Cornell) is a very young team that if you let them shoot can cause problems. So we did a great job of having intensity from the first play right to the end. I'm really, really excited the way we rebounded, passed the basketball and did an outstanding job. It's been a good day for us recruiting-wise and a great performance on the court."
Pitino announced the surprise signing of Ballard High School star Quinten Snider in a 4 p.m. news conference before the game, then got some sharp play from his current backcourt to open the game. Russ Smith, Chris Jones and Wayne Blackshear combined for all of U of L's points in a 14-2 start that prompted a quick Cornell timeout.
Blackshear went on to a career-high 20 points, making six of seven shots from the field, including four of five from three-point range. He also had a pair of blocked shots and a steal, though he didn't have a rebound in his 18 minutes.
"Wayne is shooting the ball extremely well, playing with great confidence," Pitino said. "We've got him down seven pounds, he looks quicker. He's just got to start rebounding the ball. He's a really good rebounder but he was blanked tonight."
Part of the reason for that was that his teammates weren't budging on the boards. Montrezl Harrell grabbed a game-high 15 rebounds -- 13 of them on the defensive glass -- and Chane Behanan added 12 boards to give the Cards 27 from their power forward spot.
Behanan came off the bench with a double-double, scoring 13 points.
Cornell, in its second game against a Top 10 opponent, couldn't find the same three-point magic it had against No. 9 Syracuse. It lost to the Orange 82-60 a week prior.
"Their defensive pressure really rattled us in the beginning of the game," Cornell coach Bill Courtney said. ". . . We've got to improve, but we played against one of the better teams in the country. It was a lesson we have to learn. It's a hard lesson to learn, but it's one we have to get better from."
It also was the first regular-season action for Kevin Ware, who played 13 minutes and scored five points with two rebounds -- but also a pair of turnovers. Pitino had said he was showing a limp in practice, but noted that Fred Hina watched him and declared him ready to go.
"The more I get in the groove of being in games and not just in practice and individual (instruction) I'll start getting the feel of how I was playing before I got hurt," Ware said. "I feel fine physically. I'm getting back in shape."
Luke Hancock also continued his return, logging 14 minutes with 12 points and four rebounds.
"I feel 100 percent," Hancock said. "I felt 100 percent last game. My conditioning is going to get better, but for someone who hasn't been in practice, I feel pretty good about being able to step in and play and contribute."
The Cards shot 61 percent in the first half and 57 in the second. They put five players into double-figures and had 10 log double-digit minutes.
The only sour note -- the Cards made just 18 of 34 free throws. Pitino credited it to learning to play under fatigue, and in some cases poor technique.
The Cards are back in action against Hartford Tuesday night at home before hitting the road for the first time this season for a pair of games in the Hall of Fame Tipoff at Uncasville, Conn., next weekend.
NOTES: Pitino will sign copies of his book, "The One-Day Contract," at the Kentucky Book Fair in the Frankfort Civic Center on Saturday from 1 to 3, and will sign at Costco in Louisville Sunday at noon. . . . U of L's 18 turnovers over its first three games are the lowest total after three games in Pitino's U of L tenure. The previous low was 29 turnovers in the 2008-09 season. . . . Friday's game was the 60th game in the KFC Yum! Center for the Cardinals. They are 53-7 in the building. . . . With 10 points in the game, Smith climbed into 30th on U of L's all-time scoring list, passing Larry Williams and Jeff Hall. . . . Smith has had five assists in each of U of L's first three games. . . . Jones had his first turnover of the season when a pass glanced off the hands of Anton Gill. In 77 minutes played this season, he has 13 assists and one turnover.
Copyright 2013 WDRB News. All Rights Reserved.