LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Luke Hancock, a reserve forward whose 3-pointer in the final seconds beat Syracuse last Saturday, keyed a 10-1 run early in the second half as No. 8 Louisville beat Cincinnati 67-51 last night before 22,739 fans at the KFC Yum! Center.
The score was tied at 37 when Hancock went to work. The junior co-captain hit a running floater from about 12 feet, drilled a long three-pointer, then provided an assist on a monster dunk by Chane Behanan to make it 44-38.
A basket by Russ Smith and a free throw by Kevin Ware made it 47-38 with 11:03 left and the Cardinals were never threatened from there.
Louisville (25-5, 13-4), which won its sixth game in a row and clinched a double-bye in the Big East Tournament, held its largest lead at 62-44 with 5:54 left.
The Cardinals were led by Smith with 18 points. Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng had 11 each, with Siva adding four assists and two steals and Dieng adding nine rebounds, a block and a steal. Hancock had eight points, all in the second half, to go with two assists and a steal.
Cincinnati (20-10, 8-9), which lost for the sixth time in eight games, was led by Cashmere Wright with 15 points. Sean Kilpatrick and JaQuon Parker each added 12 for the Bearcats, who opened the season 12-0 and were ranked No. 8 but now are in danger of not making the NCAA Tournament.
It was a close game throughout the first half, with Louisville taking a 35-31 lead into the locker room on a long three-pointer by Siva at the buzzer.
"We were playing really good defense, but we gave up too many three-pointers," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said of the first half. "We were outscored 18-3 on 3-pointers. We shut down the 3-point line in the second half, and that was the ballgame."
Cincinnati was 6 of 14 on treys in the first half, 0 of 7 in the second half.
Louisville shot 48.3 percent from the field (28 of 58), including 54.2 percent in the second half (13 of 24). Cincinnati shot 35.3 percent (18 of 51), including just 29.2 percent in the second half (7 of 24).
Kilpatrick was 3 of 15 from the field and 1 of 9 from 3-point range.
"When Sean Kilpatrick goes 3 for 15, we're not going to win may games," Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said. "He got a lot of good looks, but he was rushing his shot."
The Bearcats also made 21 turnovers compared with the Cardinals' nine. Cincinnati became the 11th Louisville opponent this season to have more turnovers than baskets.
The Cardinals outscored the Bearcats 42-16 in the paint, 23-13 off turnovers and 16-6 on fast breaks.
"We had no chance to win because we turned the ball over 21 times," Cronin said. "And we struggled at times with our decision-making. ... That's what got us. Louisville is a team that, when you do that (make mental errors, take bad shots), they will make you pay."
Pitino had challenged his team to win its final seven regular-season games after a five-overtime loss at Notre Dame on Feb. 9. The Cardinals now have won six in a row, with the regular-season finale Saturday against No. 21 Notre Dame (22-7, 10-6).
"I really like where we are right now," Pitino said. "We're improving. We can have a starter have a bad game and we can overcome it.
"Siva had a bad game against Syracuse (no points on 0-of-9 shooting from the field) yet we still won. Behanan had a bad game tonight (four points, no rebounds), and we won. Tonight, our reserves gave us a tremendous lift."
Louisville's bench finished with 19 points and 14 rebounds. Cincinnati's reserves scored six points and had 10 rebounds.
"Last year, we had to rely on switching our zone defenses to confuse people," Pitino said. "This year, we can just go out there and play."
NOTES: Louisville and Cincinnati have met 94 times in a series that dates to 1921. The Cardinals hold a 53-41 advantage. ... Cronin was an assistant to Rick Pitino at Louisville from 2001 to 2003. He is one of nine former Pitino assistants who are now head coaches in college, and he has the best record against Pitino (4-6). Pitino is 33-9 against former assistants.