LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Russ Smith scored 18 points and No. 8 Louisville gave Rick Pitino his 300th victory with the Cardinals by beating Cincinnati 67-51 on Monday night.
Pitino, who earned his 650th career win earlier this season against South Florida, picked up this milestone against Cincinnati counterpart Mick Cronin, a former Cardinals assistant in 2002 and 20’03.
The Cardinals (25-5, 13-4 Big East) picked up their sixth straight win and drew within one-half game of first-place Georgetown, which plays at Villanova on Wednesday. Louisville followed up last season’s victory over the Bearcats in the conference championship game that sparked a Final Four run.
Louisville’s trademark defense ignited this victory, as the Cardinals forced Cincinnati (20-10, 8-9) into a season-high 21 turnovers. Seven came during the first 10 minutes of the second half, including Kevin Ware’s steal and dunk for a 53-42 lead, part of a 23-4 run that put the game away.
Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng added 11 points each for Louisville, which shot 48 percent (28 of 58). The Cardinals scored 23 points off Cincinnati’s mistakes, with several coming during that run after the game was tied at 37.
The surge sealed Pitino’s 300th win, an achievement marked by a video tribute and the coach offering a hoarse gratitude to the crowd.
Cashmere Wright scored 15 points and Sean Kilpatrick and JaQuan Parker had 12 each for the Bearcats, who shot 18 of 51 from the field (35 percent) in losing for the sixth time in eight games.
It was a typical Big East game defined by defense.
Despite their recent slump, the Bearcats still rank in the top 30 in field goal defense (18th, 38.5 percent) and scoring (28th, 59.2 per game).
Louisville remained one of the top defensive teams, ranking third in steals per game (10.7) and turnover margin (plus-6). The Cardinals were coming off Saturday’s 58-52 win over No. 12 Syracuse, where both teams shot 36 percent; Louisville won it by outscoring Syracuse’s bench 22-15, hitting a couple more 3-pointers and taking 12 more free throws.
That victory moved Louisville up two spots in the latest poll, and the Cardinals’ objective was using familiar home surroundings to boost their offense.
Their plan worked for the most part in the first half, as the Cardinals shot a respectable 44 percent (15 of 34) and outscored the Bearcats 22-8 in the paint. Louisville moved the ball around well and it helped Siva bounce back from a scoreless game at Syracuse, as he scored 11 points on five field goals including a 3-pointer.
Louisville’s defense was key, scoring 12 points off 12 turnovers while holding Cincinnati to 11-of-27 shooting (41 percent). But the Cardinals struggled against the Bearcats’ 6-of-14 shooting from beyond the arc, helping Cincinnati stay close and trail just 35-31 at halftime.
A 13-9 run over the final 7:12 of the half provided Louisville’s cushion, but that disappeared early in the second half as the Cardinals went nearly 5 minutes without a field goal. Cincinnati rallied to tie the game at 37 by the first media timeout.
Louisville followed with a 9-1 run that eventually became a 60-42 lead.
No. 4 Kansas 79, Texas Tech 42
LAWRENCE, Kan. — Jeff Withey scored 22 points and every senior had a big night at their last home game, leading No. 4 Kansas past Texas Tech 79-42 at Allen Fieldhouse on Monday night.
Kevin Young had 14 points and Ben McLemore and Travis Releford added 13 apiece as the Jayhawks (26-4, 14-3 Big 12), who took a half-game lead over No. 9 Kansas State in their quest for a ninth straight conference title.
Fueled by Young and Withey, Kansas unleashed a 19-2 run and seized a 45-20 halftime lead. Withey and McLemore combined to score the first 10 points in a 16-3 run to open the second half. Elijah Johnson had 12 assists for Kansas, giving him 22 in the last two games.
Jordan Tolbert had 16 points for Texas Tech (10-18, 3-14), which lost 60-46 at home to Kansas earlier this season.
The lopsided victory was the 30th straight for Kansas in its home finale and ensured the Jayhawks of at least 26 wins for the seventh consecutive season.
With one regular-season game left and then the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments, the four seniors — Withey, Young, Releford and Johnson — have a combined 463 victories.
Withey had baskets on Kansas’ first two possessions of the second half, then McLemore dropped in two free throws and another basket as the rout got worse and Texas Tech called a timeout in a futile try to stem the tide.
But Perry Ellis scored four quick points and Johnson dunked after Kansas stole the ball and the Jayhawks suddenly had a 61-23 lead.
Kansas scored on seven of its first nine possessions in the first half but then hit a lull and scored on only one of their next six while the Red Raiders — 23-point underdogs — crept within 13-10. Young, the most unheralded of the four seniors, triggered a 19-2 run that let the sellout crowd of 16,300 relax and enjoy one more easy home win by their beloved Jayhawks.
Taking a pass from Johnson, Young got the run going with a behind-the-back dunk, then got a putback on McLemore’s miss and with, another assist from Johnson, slammed home another dunk on the next possession.
Johnson tossed to Withey for another slam, then the 7-footer made in two free throws and a few minutes later brought a thunderous roar from the crowd by pulling up just inches from the line and making a feathery 3-pointer for a 32-12 lead.
To the delight of the crowd, the Red Raiders had three players put up air balls in the first half — Ty Nurse, Josh Gray and Jaye Crockett.
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