Smith scores 23 as No. 4 Louisville easily beats Providence in Big East opener, 80-62
8:39 PM, Jan 2, 2013
8:59 PM, Jan 2, 2013
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Russ Smith scored a game-high 23 points and No. 4 Louisville shot 53 percent to run away from Providence 80-62 on Wednesday night in the Big East Conference opener for both teams.
Gorgui Dieng and Luke Hancock each added 11 points and Chane Behanan and Peyton Siva had 10 each as the Cardinals (13-1, 1-0) won their eighth straight.
Louisville, coming off Saturday's 80-77 victory over archrival Kentucky, didn't let down against Providence. Motivated by the memory of last season's 31-point road loss to the Friars, the Cardinals responded by handing Providence its worst defeat of the season.
Besides forcing 16 turnovers that led to 27 points, Louisville broke the game open in the second half with 63 percent shooting (15 of 24) after hitting 15 of 33 from the field before halftime.
Kadeem Batts had 17 points to lead Providence (8-5, 0-1)), which fell to 0-7 all-time in Louisville.
Though avoiding a post-Kentucky lull was part of Louisville's agenda, its main objective was starting off its conference schedule on a high note. The Cardinals were also seeking payback after last year's loss to the Friars, a game in which Providence obviously played well but one that Cardinals coach Rick Pitino noted was helped by his team's poor play.
There was no repeat of that as Louisville played well at both ends.
The biggest question for both teams was whether they would be at full strength.
Providence guard Bryce Cotton was a game-time decision because of a sore knee that sidelined him from Friday's loss to Brown. But the Big East's leading scorer (22.0 points per game) started and had a game-high 11 points in the first half.
Behanan was considered doubtful for Louisville with the flu but managed to start, though he seemed less energetic than usual.
The same could be said for the Cardinals' early play.
Providence scored the first eight points against the out-of-sync Cardinals before Smith, replaced in the starting lineup by Kevin Ware, hit a 3-pointer. But the Friars quickly increased their lead to 10 as Vincent Council answered from beyond the arc, creating unease from a crowd of 21,305.
Just as quickly, the Cardinals found their rhythm and tied the game with a 15-5 run as Smith added five straight points, Behanan scored off a turnover, Dieng and Hancock had tip-ins and Wayne Blackshear finished with a layup.
Providence took two brief leads soon after but Louisville was in high gear on both ends, especially on defense. The Cardinals turned up the pressure and ended the half with 19 points off 11 turnovers, helping them take a 37-31 lead.
Louisville quickly made it a double-digit lead on two free throws by Siva and Smith's layup off a steal by Behanan. The Cardinals followed with a 28-16 run including 13 straight that made it 69-49.