Pitino collects 500th win as Cardinals beat Marshall 85-75
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP)—The ingredients were there, as they have been throughout Rick Pitino’s hugely successful coaching career.
Playing with Pitino’s signature style—a little full-court pressure, some timely 3-point shooting, high energy at both ends of the court—Louisville made Pitino the 17th active Division I coach with 500 career wins in an 85-75 victory over Marshall on Tuesday night.
Though Pitino received a rousing ovation at the final buzzer, he called the milestone “insignificant” and was more pleased with his team’s performance as the Cardinals (6-3) snapped a two-game losing streak.
“We tried to suffocate them with our defense,” Pitino said. “We were very active.”
Perhaps just as importantly to Pitino, the Cardinals were unselfish.
After watching his team play recklessly in recent weeks, Pitino decided to change the usual pregame introduction in an effort to get their attention.
Rather than the jubilant bouncing and chest-thumping that accompanies the player introductions, the team huddled quietly in front of the bench with the starters simply raising a hand as their names were called.
It worked, eventually. After letting the Thundering Herd (5-3) stick around for the first half, Louisville took control thanks to an energetic press and some nifty passing in the open court.
“We couldn’t get the ball past halfcourt for a while,” Marshall coach Donnie Jones said. “We just weren’t getting the shots up.”
The Cardinals forced 17 turnovers and shared the ball at the other end. Louisville finished with 19 assists, their highest total since a season-opening rout of Hartford. The Cardinals also had a season-high 13 blocks, five by Terrance Farley.
Earl Clark scored a career-high 23 points and Derrick Caracter had 18 points and eight rebounds in his return from a one-game suspension.
Pitino suspended Caracter indefinitely last week for a curfew violation, but lifted it on Monday saying Caracter met his obligations. The decision to reinstate Caracter, who has had several run-ins with Pitino over the last year, raised some eyebrows. Pitino defended his actions, saying he hasn’t gone soft on his players.
“Let me tell you, I’m not sticking up for DC,” Pitino said. “Just so you know, he’s not getting off easy. What we’re doing is 10 times what I’ve ever done to a basketball player. … He has no life.”
Caracter said he made a mistake and is trying to change his ways.
“I’ve really had to prove myself to my teammates,” said Caracter, who had four blocks and two rare assists in 23 minutes. “I had a lot of bad habits. … I want to show everybody I belong here.”
Markel Humphrey had 24 points and Mark Dorris added 21 for Marshall, but the Thundering Herd went cold in the second half and withered in the face of Louisville’s press.
“We knew we could turn them over with our pressure,” Louisville’s Jerry Smith said. “We didn’t contain them in the first half, they were hot. We did a much better job in the second half.”
Louisville held the Thundering Herd without a field goal for nearly seven minutes during a 20-3 run in the second half as the Cardinals broke open a close game by taking a 66-49 lead.
“We dug down deep, got out on the press and that allowed us to get some easy baskets,” Clark said.
Marshall, however, didn’t go away easily. The Thundering Herd closed to 66-59, and nearly cut it to four, but Humphrey’s wide-open 3-pointer from the top of the key rolled out.
Caracter took over from there, scoring six straight points as the Cardinals put together their most complete game in a month.
The victory upped Pitino’s career record to 500-185, but after disappointing performances in losses to Dayton and Purdue, he was simply looking for his team to play like the one that began the season ranked in the Top 10.
“Your confidence is lacking when you lose two games in a row,” Pitino said. “We needed this victory tonight badly.”
Humphrey kept the Thundering Herd in it in the first half. He hit all four of his 3-point attempts as Jones, a former assistant under Pitino protege Billy Donovan, employed the same up-tempo, shooter-friendly system that Pitino perfected early in his career.
Caracter checked in with 14:35 remaining in the first half, but he did little to help the Cardinals compete on the glass against the smaller Thundering Herd.
It wasn’t until Louisville’s press got going in the second half that the Cardinals were able to snap out of a weeks-long funk.