LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Jerry Smith scored a season-high 20
points and Terrence Williams had eight points, nine rebounds and
four assists as No. 7 Louisville held off West Virginia 69-63 on
Reserve freshman center Terrence Jennings added a career-high 13
points and two blocks for the Cardinals (17-3, 8-0 Big East), who
have won nine straight heading into a showdown with No. 2
Connecticut on Monday.
Da'Sean Butler scored 19 of his 23 points in the second half for
the Mountaineers (15-6, 4-4), who almost came all the way back from
a 20-point halftime deficit. Alex Ruoff had 16 points and Devin
Ebanks added 14 points and six rebounds for West Virginia.
The Mountaineers got as close four points with 2:16 remaining,
but the Cardinals got the stops they needed to finish off a perfect
It was a month that almost ended with an embarrassing finish for
Louisville, which seemed in total control after taking a 45-25
West Virginia, however, didn't panic. The Mountaineers steadily
worked their way back into the game behind the play of Butler and
some sloppy ballhandling by the Cardinals.
Louisville had a season-high 26 turnovers and seemed to already
be thinking about the Huskies as the West Virginia cut into the
Ebanks hit a free throw to get within 63-59, but Samardo Samuels
hit two free throws to push Louisville's lead back to six. Butler,
surrounded by Louisville guards Preston Knowles and Andre McGee,
turned it over on West Virginia's next possession.
The Cardinals gave it right back but John Flowers missed a
3-pointer for West Virginia and Williams followed with an emphatic
dunk in the lane to help Louisville avoid a massive collapse.
The taut final few minutes didn't seem likely after the
Cardinals dominated the first half.
Louisville coach Rick Pitino had warned his team about looking
past the Mountaineers. West Virginia came in with road wins at Ohio
State and No. 25 Georgetown and were playing the kind of aggressive
defense that became coach Bob Huggins' trademark during his days at
Pitino's worries lasted all of eight minutes, or about as long
as it took the Cardinals to steady themselves after a shaky start.
Louisville buried the Mountaineers with a 40-15 blitz to end the
half highlighted by the play of Smith and Jennings.
Smith, stuck in a shooting funk for the past month, broke out by
knocking down four 3-pointers in the first half and surpassed his
previous season high of 16 points by the break.
Jennings, who has spent most of the season toiling behind
Samuels while struggling to learn Louisville's intricate offensive
sets, scored 10 points in seven energetic minutes. He dunked three
times, hit a nifty reverse layup and made a couple of free throws -
not bad for a player who came in shooting 32 percent from the line.
The Mountaineers, meanwhile, simply couldn't get going. They
went nine minutes without making a field goal as the Cardinals
bottled up Ruoff and Butler. By the time Butler finally scored on a
layup with 3:08 to go in the half, the Mountaineers already trailed