No. 18 Louisville 77, Austin Peay 49
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP)—Louisville coach Rick Pitino had a bad week, but was finally smiling on Wednesday night.
Taquan Dean scored 16 points and Ellis Myles had 12 points and 12 rebounds to lead the 18th-ranked Cardinals to a 77-49 victory over Austin Peay in the championship game of the Billy Minardi Classic.
Since Dec. 15, Pitino has dismissed and reinstated freshman Terrance Farley, lost a heartbreaker to No. 8 Kentucky, his former team, and dealt with injuries to his two leading rebounders, Myles and Otis George.
“We’re battling an awful lot right now,” Pitino said.
But by the time he began pulling his starters with about 5 minutes left in Wednesday’s rout, Pitino was clapping and chatting with people at the scorer’s table.
“We’ve weathered a very difficult storm,” Pitino said. “I’m really proud of our guys because they’ve hung in there through all of the tough breaks.”
Myles, who turned 23 on Wednesday, sat out Tuesday’s 80-60 win over IUPUI with a tight hamstring. Pitino said Monday that George will be out 2 to 4 weeks with a stress fracture in his right foot.
On Wednesday night, the Cardinals still had more than enough to rout the Governors.
Francisco Garcia and Larry O’Bannon each added 12 points for the Cardinals (8-2), who shot 52 percent (14-of-27) in the second half to pull away.
“All we have to do is run our offense,” Myles said. “When we don’t play selfishly, we’re a good team.”
Louisville outrebounded the Governors 43-22. The 6-foot-7 Garcia had seven rebounds, despite twisting his right ankle early in the second half.
Dean, who scored 20 points in Tuesday’s win, was selected the tournament’s most outstanding player.
Maurice Hampton and William Durden each scored eight points to lead Austin Peay (2-7), which shot 30 percent (14-of-47) and lost to Louisville for the third straight season.
The Cardinals were shaky on offense in the first half, shooting 39 percent (9-of-23) and committing 12 turnovers.
Levi Carmichael’s 3-pointer with 8:12 left in the opening half gave the Governors a 19-17 lead and prompted a timeout from Pitino.
The Cardinals responded with smothering defense, forcing five turnovers during a 13-0 run over the next 8 minutes.
“We just couldn’t score,” Austin Peay coach Dave Loos said of the drought. “They just wore us down, obviously.”
Derek Wright stole a pass and banked in a 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer to close Austin Peay’s deficit to 30-22.
Louisville looked sharper after the break, opening the second half with an 11-3 run. Dean said the Cardinals came out of the locker room still thinking about blowing a 16-point halftime lead in Saturday’s 60-58 loss to Kentucky.
“When we come into the second half now, it seems like we have a chip on our shoulder,” Dean said. “We learned a great lesson losing to UK. We don’t want to have that feeling again.”
The Governors twice cut the lead to 13, but O’Bannon hit a 3-pointer with 12:07 left to start a 9-1 burst that put Louisville up 54-34.
O’Bannon drew the loudest cheer of the night when he reverse-dunked an alley-oop pass from Myles with 8:53 remaining. Dean’s 3-pointer with 8:21 put the Cardinals up 60-38, their largest lead to that point.
Pitino called the loss to Kentucky—where the Cardinals led by 16 points with 11 minutes left—“devastating,” but said his players showed signs Wednesday night that they have finally put the setback behind them.
“They haven’t let down emotionally all season,” Pitino said. “They didn’t hang their heads after a tremendous defeat. They said, ‘OK, let’s turn the page and move on.”’
The usually packed Freedom Hall was only half-full after a storm dumped nearly 4 inches of snow earlier in the day. The crowd of 8,325 was the lowest since 7,146 attended a game against Charlotte in 1993.
IUPUI beat New Orleans 72-60 in the consolation game of the four-team tournament named after Pitino’s brother-in-law, who died in the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center.