Louisville’s Smith scores 14 in win over Rutgers

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PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP)—As the wounded get healthier, so does Louisville’s win-loss record.

“We’re getting all our guys back,” said Jerry Smith after scoring 14 points to lead Louisville to its third straight win, 64-49, over Rutgers on Sunday. “

We finally have everybody back so we’re practicing hard. The practices are much more intense and it’s showing on the court. We’re all coming together as one.”

David Padgett had nine points while Juan Palacios and Derrick Caracter added eight each for the Cardinals (12-4, 2-1 Big East), who won for the seventh time in their last eight games. Terrence Williams collected seven points and 14 rebounds.

Padgett and Palacios have played six and seven games, respectively, after returning from injuries.

“We’re playing good defense, we’re getting very close, but Padgett is nowhere near 100 percent. He’s about three weeks away. Palacios is about 90 percent. I think by the time February rolls around we’ll have Padgett at 100 percent,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said.

Jaron Griffin had a career-high 23 points for Rutgers (8-9, 0-4), which lost its fourth straight. JR Inman added 11 points but committed seven of Rutgers 16 turnovers, and Hamady Ndiaye had 10 rebounds and four blocked shots.

Inman converted a three-point play with 12:18 to make it 39-39, the game’s sixth tie. Williams then slammed down an alley-oop feed from Edgar Sosa to start Louisville on a decisive 10-1 run.

“That sparked us,” Smith said. “It got our momentum back after they were making their run. That got us back on our feet.”

The Knights whittled a 49-40 deficit to 51-45 before Palacios’ three-point play started the Cardinals on an 8-0 run to open a 14-point advantage with under two minutes remaining. Palacios’ play was a putback off a missed foul shot.

“We have it a six with three minutes left, but we don’t box out on a missed foul shot and they get a three-point play,” said Rutgers coach Fred Hill, who was otherwise happy with how his team battled. “You shoot 31 percent, and we don’t have any margin for error. It’s one little mistake that separates the game.”

Louisville pressed for the entire game, and while Rutgers was able to break the pressure, the Knights’ offensive woes continued as they shot just 31.4 percent. Louisville shot 41.5 percent (52.2 in the second half), and held a 40-33 rebounding advantage.

Hill said the press did not wear Rutgers down, but the Cardinal players felt otherwise.

“When you’re pressing all game like that and they don’t have a deep bench, they always get a little tired,” Caracter said. “It wears them down.”

Rutgers led for most of the first half until a 12-0 run gave Louisville a 28-20 advantage. The Cardinals, despite 33.3 percent shooting, led 28-23 at halftime. The Scarlet Knights shot 28.6 percent and committed nine turnovers in the half.

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