No. 12 Louisville 84, Saint Louis 66
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP)—A bout with mononucleosis hasn’t affected Taquan Dean’s shooting touch.
Louisville’s star guard hit five 3-pointers for 15 points Sunday night and the No. 12 Cardinals put together their best offensive performance in weeks, beating Saint Louis 84-66.
Louisville coach Rick Pitino said Friday that Dean has been battling mono, a virus that weakens the immune system. Dean missed three practices this week and struggled through a workout on Saturday.
“I tried to shoot. I didn’t have any energy,” Dean said.
As bad as he felt, Dean never considered sitting out Sunday’s game.
“The only way someone could stop me from playing was if someone cut off my arms and legs,” he said.
Last season, Dean tore an abdominal muscle in January and was never the same. Neither were the Cardinals, who dropped 9 of their last 13 games.
Dean had offseason surgery and said the painstaking rehabilitation from that will help him play through his current sickness.
“Mentally, I’m stronger,” he said. “I know I can deal with this. I just need to get into the weight room, get stronger and get rest.”
Dean had only three points at halftime, then found his range as Louisville opened the second half with a 21-6 run.
Louisville shot 4-for-8 from beyond the arc at the start of the second half, finally finding the offensive rhythm that was missing in its last two home games. Dean’s 3 from the corner with 12:26 left put the Cardinals up 57-40.
Francisco Garcia, Dean’s best friend, was astonished by his roommate’s performance.
“It was impressive,” said Garcia, who scored 13. “I don’t know how he did it. It’s just amazing.”
Larry O’Bannon scored 17 and Ellis Myles finished with 13 points and 18 rebounds for the Cardinals (23-4, 11-2 Conference USA), who finished with their highest point total since a 105-69 win over Tulane on Jan. 29.
Louisville shot 30-for-61 for 49.2 percent, its highest percent since converting 53 percent in a 99-52 win over Marquette on Jan. 26.
The Cardinals shot 13-for-29 from 3-point range (45 percent), their best effort beyond the arc since going 17-for-30 against Marquette.
“I thought if we shot a good percentage, we’d be able to wear them down a little bit,” Pitino said.
Izik Ohanon scored 18 points to lead Saint Louis (7-18, 4-8), which lost Coach Brad Soderberg to a first-half ejection.
The Cardinals had shot 35 percent in their last two home games, and they struggled offensively early Sunday.
Louisville trailed by four after missing 8 of its first 11 shots and making four turnovers in the opening six minutes.
The Cardinals started 1-for-8 from 3-point range, before Garcia made one from the corner with 5:05 left in the first half.
On Louisville’s next possession, Soderberg screamed at referee Curtis Shaw for not calling Myles for traveling. Garcia hit another 3-pointer, giving Louisville its first lead at 24-22, and Soderberg continued his rant, drawing a technical from Shaw.
Referee Steve Welmer then faced off with Soderberg, who was restrained by assistants. When Welmer walked away, Soderberg angrily punched the air and Shaw gave him another technical, ejecting him.
“I want to publicly apologize to my players, my staff and our fans for the display I put on,” Soderberg said. “I take full responsibility for it. I just shouldn’t have done it.”
Garcia sank the four resulting free throws to give the Cardinals a six-point edge.
The lead reached eight points, but the Billikens finished the half with a 9-3 burst to trail only 36-34 at the break.
Pitino ripped his players at halftime and the Cardinals came out with renewed intensity, scrambling for loose balls and speeding up the game by forcing turnovers.
The Billikens shot 37 percent in the second half after shooting 62 percent in the first.
“Coach got on us at halftime and we got after it in the second half,” Myles said. “We just needed to play better fundamental defense.”
Louisville won for the 12th time in 13 games. Saint Louis lost for the sixth time in seven conference games.