LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP)—Point guard, shooting guard, it doesn’t matter how to you try to label Dayton’s Brian Roberts.
“I just want the ball in my hands and I want to make plays,” Roberts said.
The senior made plenty of them Saturday, scoring 28 points as Dayton upset No. 14 Louisville 70-65. The win spoiled Louisville coach Rick Pitino’s first attempt at joining the 500-win club.
“This is a huge win for our program and for Dayton,” Roberts said. “We opened some eyes today. I know from this point on, there’ll be a lot of people looking at us.”
The Cardinals sure got an eyeful as Roberts lifted the Flyers (7-1) to their second straight victory over Louisville (5-2).
Last year, Roberts scored seven points in the final three minutes to pull off the upset. He dominated from the start on Saturday, scoring 14 of Dayton’s first 19 points as the Flyers raced to an early lead then held off a late charge.
“For us to come in to this environment and keep our poise shows a lot of toughness,” Roberts said.
Roberts wanted to redeem himself after subpar performances against Holy Cross and High Point. He delivered with the kind of steady play that’s made him one of the best guards in the Atlantic 10.
“Brian was the best player on the court for 40 minutes,” Dayton coach Brian Gregory said. “You’ve got to give him credit. He stepped up big.”
The Cardinals got off to a sluggish start and simply had no answer for Roberts, denying Pitino a shot at becoming the 17th active coach to reach 500 wins. Not that he cared after watching his team struggle again without injured starters David Padgett and Juan Palacios.
“We’re still not where we need to be fundamentally and we are paying for it now,” Pitino said. “We’re just not understanding basketball and the fundamentals.”
Derrick Caracter had 16 points and seven rebounds and Earl Clark had 15 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks for Louisville, but the Cardinals shot 43 percent from the field and couldn’t get the stops when they needed them.
The Cardinals trailed by as many as 12 points during a horrid first half, but held the Flyers scoreless for over six minutes during a 13-0 run that gave the Cardinals a 41-39 lead with 10 minutes to go.
Dayton responded behind Roberts, who hit two pull-up jumpers and added two free throws during a 14-5 burst that put Dayton back in front 53-46 with 7:05 remaining.
“We got the lead and it looked like we were in the groove but they wouldn’t go away,” Louisville guard Edgar Sosa said.
The Cardinals would get within three points several times in the final minutes, but the Flyers made their free throws to clinch it.
“We gathered our composure and really made plays the last 10 minutes,” Gregory said. “We took a step forward today as a team … we just have to keep building on this.”
The Cardinals, playing just their second game in 14 days, couldn’t seem to get into a rhythm. Caracter got in early foul trouble and the Cardinals struggled to find any consistency on either end of the floor.
Louisville missed its first six shots and shot 33 percent in the half. Dayton built a 19-7 lead and maintained it by crashing the offensive boards, generating numerous second-chance opportunities.
Roberts, who had eight turnovers in his last two games, had no such problems against the Cardinals. Though Louisville switched matchups frequently in an effort to disrupt Roberts, he dominated whoever happened to be on him. Roberts had just one turnover in 37 minutes.
“We didn’t want to play him the way we played him,” Pitino said. “We didn’t want to back into the level of the screen. We wanted to stay on him and play him correctly (but) even our zone was bad tonight.”
Roberts—who scored 20 points in Dayton’s win over the Cardinals last year — took over after Louisville got back in it. He received a little help from Chris Wright and Jimmy Binnie, who both added nine points.
“We got a lot of good basketball from a lot of guys,” Gregory said.
The Flyers were 16-of-20 from the free throw line, including making 10 straight in the final minutes. Even center Kurt Huelsman got in on the act. He made three of four free throws, not bad for a player who came in shooting 44 percent from the line.
Louisville turned the ball over 15 times and had just nine assists. Though Caracter and Clark were dominant at times, Louisville shot 32 percent from 3-point range and was 8-of-13 from the free throw line.