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Louisville routs South Florida with suffocating defense

The SportsXchange

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Despite the fact that No. 3 Louisville ranked near the top nationally in virtually every statistical defensive category, coach Rick Pitino had been critical of his team's defense recently.

His players heeded his criticism Saturday, holding South Florida to 15 points in the first half en route to a 64-38 victory.

In the first half the Cardinals (15-1, 3-0 Big East) held the Bulls (9-6, 0-3) to 22.7 percent shooting and outrebounded them 30-10.

Chane Behanan, who returned after missing one game with an ankle injury, had 12 rebounds in 11 minutes in the first half, outboarding the entire South Florida team. South Florida didn't get its fourth basket of the half until 5:33 remained and made just five baskets in all.

The second half was a mere formality, with the only two questions being whether Louisville could double South Florida's score (it was 62-32 with two minutes left) and whether the Cardinals could hold USF under 40 points. They did that, in fact holding the Bulls to the lowest point total in school history.

"I can't be any more pleased with the defense," said Pitino. "Since the second half of the Seton Hall game (on Wednesday), we've played unbelievable defense. We had a good talk about defense at halftime that night, and I think they got the message. It's the type of defense we want played, the type of defense we have been waiting for and wanted to see."

Pitino also singled out Behanan for praise, noting that the trainer had advised that he not play but Behanan told him he was ready to play. "Chane gave us a tremendous lift," Pitino said. "He said that it was a little painful but that he could play. ... Chane really helped us this evening."

Payton Siva led Louisville with 17 points, hitting 7 of 11 shots, including 3 of 5 from beyond the arc. He became the 64th Louisville player to score 1,000 points. Gorgui Dieng had 12 points and 16 rebounds as Louisville had 10 players score but just two reached double figures. Behanan played only seven minutes in the second half and finished with seven points and 12 rebounds.

South Florida coach Stan Heath was effusive in his praise of Louisville.

"They are really, really good," he said. "I'm sure Rick had them fired up because we beat them last year. They came to play. ... We caught the full wrath. And they're a lot better this year. Dieng is just so much better. He just intimidates you in the paint.

"Siva is making 3's, and that was not the case in the past. You could dare him to shoot from out there, and you'd be OK with it. And they have such a deep bench. They keep bringing guys in and bringing guys in and bringing guys in. And they're really comfortable with their schemes. They switch from a man-to-man to a zone, and our young guys aren't used to that. They're legit. They have a chance to win it all."

Heath, whose team lost its third straight game, also noted that the Bulls "are fighting injuries. We have two starters out. Shaun Noriega is one of our best outside shooters. We sure could have used him. We wouldn't have won, but we missed him, and Kore White, too. They're both seniors."

Victor Rudd paced USF with 10 points -- the only Bull in double figures. USF shot 26.7 percent (12 of 45), 17.6 percent on treys (3 of 17), and was outrebounded 49-24.

Louisville won its 10th straight game, its only loss 76-71 to top-ranked Duke when Dieng was out with a broken wrist.

NOTES: Behanan returned to action for Louisville after missing one game because of a sprained ankle suffered in practice Monday. He had been projected to be out 7-10 days and three games. The 6-foot-6 sophomore forward is third on the team in scoring at 11.4 points per game and second in rebounding at 7.4. He had played in every game until missing the Providence game Wednesday. ... South Florida was missing two players who had been starting. Noriega (8.4 points per game) missed his seventh straight game with a foot injury, and White (5.1 ppg) missed his fifth straight game with a foot injury.
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