Clark’s double-double leads Cardinals past Mountaineers
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP)—Earl Clark returned from a one-game suspension to post his seventh double-double of the season with 11 points and 12 rebounds as Louisville pounded West Virginia 63-54 Thursday.
Jerry Smith led the Cardinals with 14 points and Edgar Sosa added 10 as Louisville (11-4, 1-1 Big East) held the Mountaineers to 36 percent shooting, disrupting West Virginia’s free-flowing offense by extending the defense and slowing the game down.
The 6-foot-9 Clark sat out Louisville’s win over rival Kentucky on Saturday while serving a one-game suspension for undisclosed reasons. He watched the first six minutes from the sidelines before entering, and his presence gave the Cardinals a decided size advantage over the Mountaineers.
Louisville trailed only briefly after Clark entered, attacking the smaller Mountaineers (11-4, 1-2) on the glass. Though the Cardinals were hardly crisp, shooting just 41 percent from the field, their defense made up for any offensive struggles.
Joe Alexander led West Virginia with 22 points—scoring 14 straight in the second half—but got little help from his teammates. Leading scorer Alex Ruoff managed just 13 points on 4-of-14 shooting, including 3-of-10 from 3-point range.
West Virginia had hoped to build some momentum after upsetting Marquette on Sunday, but struggled once again on the road. Louisville’s length forced the Mountaineers to work for open shots, and when they got them, they didn’t go down.
Louisville coach Rick Pitino told his players to get out on West Virginia’s shooters, and they listened. Even center David Padgett got in on the act, stepping out to block a 3-point attempt by Alexander in the second half, then taking a charge on the next possession.
The Cardinals led by eight at the half and slowly opened the game up from there. West Virginia got no closer than six points in the second half. Each time it seemed the Mountaineers were on the verge of making a run, Louisville would hit a shot or get a stop.
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins, no stranger to Freedom Hall from his days coaching Cincinnati, was booed lustily during pregame introductions. Things didn’t get any friendlier for the Mountaineers.
Louisville built a 32-24 halftime lead by stepping out and challenging West Virginia’s 3-point shooters and crashing the offensive glass. The Cardinals closed the half with a 10-2 run, nine of them coming on second, and sometimes third, chances. Clark scored four points during the run, two of them after he clanked a 3-pointer, then raced to the basket and tipped in a miss by Padgett.