Louisville 81, Houston 55

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HOUSTON (TICKER) —Marvin Stone scored 17 points and Reece Gaines added 16 as sixth-ranked Louisville increased the nation’s longest winning streak to 17 games with an 81-55 rout of Conference USA foe Houston.

The Cardinals’ winning streak matched the second longest in school history. Louisville also closed the 1985-86 season with 17 straight wins and a national championship. The school record was established in 1979-80 at 18 in a row.

“We’ve won 17 in a row and that’s quite an accomplishment and the guys should feel proud of that because we’ve worked very hard for what we’ve accomplished,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. “The record here at the U of L is 18 and it will be very hard to tie it and beat it, but nothing will surprise me any more.”

“I’ve got a lot of confidence right now,” Stone said. “The whole team has confidence and we’re just trying to keep it rolling.”

Freshman Francisco Garcia scored 10 points and Stone chipped in six as the Cardinals (18-1, 8-0 C-USA American Division) put together a 21-7 run in the opening 8:42 of the contest.

“It’s good to get a road win,” Pitino said. “You watch college basketball these days, there aren’t too many of them.”

Garcia, who matched a school record with eight 3-pointers in Wednesday’s victory over Cincinnati, finished with 14 points.

Freshman Taquan Dean, who contributed 15 points, nailed the fourth of his five 3-pointers with 4:34 remaining in the first half and opened a 36-12 cushion for Louisville.

Louisville’s surprising run this season has been a result of the play of Gaines as well as Stone, a highly-regarded transfer from Kentucky. Stone made 8-of-14 shots and grabbed eight rebounds as the Cardinals held a 42-33 edge on the glass.

“Because of Marvin Stone, all of this is possible,” Pitino said. “Marvin Stone is something that most teams don’t have.”

Pitino also credited an unusual ability to his two star freshmen, Garcia and Dean.

“Freshmen are usually thinking about themselves,” Pitino said. “They’re probably the two most mature players in terms of understanding how to win. I haven’t seen that in my life.”

Joshua Tinch converted a layup with 23 seconds to go and the Cardinals took a 45-21 lead into the locker room. Louisville limited Houston to 1-of-11 from beyond the arc, including an 0-of-6 effort in the first half.

“We played great half-court defense in the first half,” Pitino said. “What we tried to do is not give up the 3-pointer. That’s the key to winning on the road, your 3-point defense.”

Freshman Cedric Hensley led Houston with 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting off the bench. But the Cougars (6-13, 4-4 National) dropped their second straight and seventh straight meeting with the Cardinals.

Former Houston coach Guy Lewis was honored during a halftime ceremony on Saturday. He led the Cougars to 592 wins and five NCAA Final Four appearances.

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