LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP)—Louisville made quick work of Lafayette on Saturday, giving coach Rick Pitino an opportunity to tinker with lineups and work on the Cardinals’ weaknesses.
Francisco Garcia scored 25 points and Ellis Myles grabbed 16 rebounds to lead the No. 17 Cardinals to a 98-57 rout of the Leopards.
Freshman Juan Palacios scored 16 and Larry O’Bannon added 13 for the Cardinals (4-1), playing for the first time since finishing fifth in the Maui Invitational. Garcia also had five assists and seven rebounds.
“It was good for us,” Pitino said. “We got to work against a 1-3-1 (zone defense), we got to work on our zone offense, which was very effective. We overmatched them, but it was still good to get some different combinations out there.”
Paul Cummins scored 13 to lead Lafayette (1-4), which shot 28 percent and committed 19 turnovers.
Pitino said his team still needs to improve its defense.
“We have a long way to go defensively,” Pitino said. “(Lafayette) had a lot of open looks at the basket. Good defense doesn’t allow those open looks.”
The faster, more talented Cardinals seized control immediately, opening with a 17-1 run. The Leopards fueled the spurt by missing their first nine shots and committing three turnovers.
“We were ready to play right away,” Garcia said.
Garcia got two quick fouls and Pitino benched him. It didn’t matter.
After Matt Betley sank a 3-pointer for Lafayette with 14:07 left in the half, the Cardinals ran off 13 straight points to build a 30-4 lead.
For much of the rest of the half, Pitino used a unit of small, scrappy reserves, a group Pitino has dubbed the “kamikazes.” The group maintained Louisville’s comfortable lead with swarming full-court pressure and crisp offense.
“We came off playing a lot of difficult games and to get the kamikazes in there playing together over a period of time was good. We haven’t had that opportunity,” Pitino said.
The Cardinals led 54-19 at the half, going 19-of-33 from the field (58 percent) and generating 18 points off 11 Lafayette turnovers in the first 20 minutes.
“I was really happy with our guys’ focus,” Pitino said.
Garcia scored 20 points after returning early in the second half.
“I was feeling well,” Garcia said. “When I’m open, I’ve got to shoot the ball. When I don’t, that hurts my team.”
Louisville’s lead never dipped below 35 after the break.
The Cardinals finished with 11 3-pointers, shot 51 percent overall and outrebounded the Leopards 49-35.
“We’ve been watching them on film and saw that they were good,” Lafayette coach Fran O’Hanlon said. “They are really great in person.”