LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP)—Taquan Dean, showing no ill effects of an injured groin, had 21 points and seven rebounds to lead No. 5 Louisville to a 93-66 victory over previously unbeaten and sixth-ranked Cincinnati on Wednesday night.
Dean was in severe pain earlier in the day and Louisville coach Rick Pitino considered sitting him out.
“When I lifted my leg this morning, I couldn’t even run,” said Dean, who went 7-of-14 from the field, including 5-of-10 from 3-point range. “I wouldn’t miss this game with one leg. I stuck it out. My leg was throbbing.”
Francisco Garcia added 19 points and seven assists and Luke Whitehead had 18 points and eight rebounds as the Cardinals (14-1, 5-0 Conference USA) beat the Bearcats for the fourth time in the last six meetings.
Louisville’s victory margin matched the worst in Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins’ 15 seasons there. The Bearcats lost to North Carolina 90-63 in 1993.
“I don’t ever want to get beat like this again,” Huggins said. “I’m embarrassed. I’d like to send a couple of our guys down here for a couple of days and let Rick have them. That would open their eyes.”
The Cardinals went 29-of-42 from the free throw line, while Cincinnati was 12-of-26.
Louisville outrebounded Cincinnati 42-38 and generated 19 points off the Bearcats’ season-high 19 turnovers.
The Cardinals lost the rebound margin in three of their first five games, but have outrebounded their last 10 opponents.
“I knew, if we were going to be a great team, we were going to have to play great defense and rebound the ball better,” Pitino said. “We’ve become a pretty good team.”
Jason Maxiell scored 14 points to lead Cincinnati (13-1, 4-1), one of three undefeated teams in Division I coming into the game, which scored only 26 points in the second half.
Huggins said he spent some timeouts reminding his players where they had to be on certain plays.
“You can kind of tell when your team is into it and we weren’t,” Huggins said. “We didn’t run offense. We just didn’t do anything.”
Both teams speeded up the game from the start with their trademark fullcourt pressure. But neither defense was effective early as the Bearcats started 4-of-6 from the field and the Cardinals were 4-of-7.
Tony Bobbitt’s 3-pointer with 15:42 left in the first half started a 9-0 Bearcats’ run that gave Cincinnati a 19-12 lead.
Garcia, held without a field goal in the first 8 minutes, scored nine points during Louisville’s 13-2 run to answer.
The Cardinals pushed the lead to five, but the Bearcats retook the lead at 33-31 on Bobbitt’s 3-pointer in front of the Louisville bench with 5:41 left in the half.
The Cardinals held Cincinnati to two field goals the rest of the half in taking a 44-40 lead. The Bearcats hadn’t trailed at halftime or in the second half of any game this season.
Cincinnati had beaten its first 13 opponents by an average of 25 points and Huggins said his players had sagged into complacency.
“I told them I saw this coming three games ago,” Huggins said. “Our halfcourt offense hasn’t been good for several games.”
Cincinnati committed seven turnovers and nine fouls in the first 9:25 of the second half, enabling Louisville to open an 11-point lead. The Cardinals, shooting 72 percent from the free throw line this season, hit seven of their first 12 free throws in the second half and led 63-52 after Kendall Dartez made two with 10:35 left.
James White had a layup with 10:06 remaining, but Alhaji Mohammed and Dean hit 3-pointers over the next 2 minutes as Louisville began to pull away.
Dean played 38 minutes and didn’t leave the floor until the final minute.
“I was more focused than ever with the injury,” Dean said. “Coach told me when you play in pain, you’re more focused.”
The Bearcats went 10-of-24 from the field, 6-of-14 from the free throw line, committed 12 turnovers and missed their only two 3-point attempts in the second half.
Cincinnati finished 4-of-14 from 3-point range (29 percent).
“We wanted to limit the 3 and not turn it over and rebound. We did that,” Pitino said. “It wasn’t their night, but they are a great team.”
The game drew 20,079 fans, the second largest crowd in Freedom Hall history.