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Louisville maintains mastery over Rutgers with 20-point win

The SportsXchange

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Louisville's dominance over Rutgers continued on Wednesday night with a commanding 68-48 win at the Rutgers Athletic Center.

The No. 11 Cardinals (19-4, 7-3 Big East) are now 11-1 against the Scarlet Knights and have claimed seven straight in this series.

Rutgers (12-9, 3-7), paced by 13 points from Eli Carter, has dropped five games in a row, three to teams ranked in the Top 25. It faces No. 20 Georgetown at home on Saturday.

Louisville, which received 19 points from Wayne Blackshear off the bench, turned a close game at the half into a rout by going on a 23-4 run during the first nine minutes of the second half to grab a commanding 51-30 lead. Russ Smith, Peyton Siva and Blackshear contributed five points apiece in the blitz.

"I told the guys at halftime," said Louisville coach Rick Pitino, "it's their (Rutgers) pace. They play everybody tough. Don't be concerned, you'll have your run.

"We made some adjustments in our press and then the guys just showed some tremendous athletic ability."

Louisville's vaunted 2-2-1 press wore down the Scarlet Knights in the second half. Pitino's squad held Rutgers to just 32 percent shooting from the floor on the night. It was the 11th time this season the Cardinals held an opponent to 35 percent or under from the field.

"Louisville turns it up," said Rutgers coach Mike Rice. "That's who they are. They're a top 10 team in the country; I think they're a Final Four team. But also as I looked at the shot chart, we had four missed layups in the first four minutes, and after Wally's [Judge] missed dunk, we just had turnovers.

"Our guards had a couple of sloppy, careless turnovers. I thought they had the same pressure in the first half, but we were stronger. We had more of a purpose to us."

Rutgers managed only seven field goals in the second half and committed nine turnovers, only two of which were the result of Louisville steals.

"We realize we didn't share the ball well in the first half, so we just stretched out the game in the second half and shared the ball," said Louisville center Gorgui Dieng.

The 6-foot-11 Dieng controlled the paint on both ends, hauling in eight rebounds and blocking six shots. He provided a sense of security behind the pesky guard tandem of Smith and Siva.

"I'm in the back," Dieng said. "If I see someone gets beat, I just do what I'm supposed to do. Nothing crazy."

The game held the same format when Louisville faced another Big East Conference team in New Jersey earlier this season. It led just 36-34 at the half against Seton Hall on Jan. 9 before limiting the Pirates to only eight field goals in the second half en route to grabbing the 73-58 win.

"I thought tonight was a real workman-like type victory," Pitino admitted. "Gorgui was the difference. When they (Rutgers) did get in there, they're looking at this big guy with long arms. He helped them (Smith and Siva) on the inside. When you hold them to four 3's and none of them were good looks, that's good defense.

"Last year our press wasn't really wearing anybody down. We have a little deeper bench and we have Russ (Smith) and Peyton (Siva), two of the quickest guys, and you've got the shot blocker in the back."

Louisville committed an uncharacteristic nine turnovers, but managed a 28-26 halftime advantage. Rutgers, led by Carter's 11 points, did a nice job against the 2-2-1 press, but found itself in trouble in the half-court.

The Scarlet Knights were able to score only four paints in the paint, finding it difficult to maneuver around Dieng, who recorded two blocks and grabbed five of Louisville's 14 rebounds.

The first half saw the score tied five times, three by Rutgers in the last three minutes.

NOTES: Louisville is third in the nation in steals with 11.2 per game and turnover margin at plus-6.55 per game. ... Rutgers is now 1-5 this season against Top 25 teams. ... Russ Smith's 18.4 scoring average is the highest for a Cardinal since Reece Gaines averaged 21 points during the 2001-02 season. Smith's average ranks as the 19th highest at Louisville. ... Dane Miller's 46-game starting streak ended for Rutgers.
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