LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Rick Pitino began the night with a pep
talk. He ended it with applause.
In between came a rare sight for the Louisville coach: a little
defensive intensity from his team.
Edgar Sosa scored 18 points while Samardo Samuels added 17
points and seven rebounds as the re-energized Cardinals snapped a
two-game losing streak with a 94-57 victory over Oral Roberts on
Frustrated by a decided lack of effort during stunning home
losses to Charlotte and Western Carolina, Pitino televised his
pregame speech over the Jumbotron at Freedom Hall, challenging the
Cardinals to stop playing like "impostors."
Pitino added a history lesson on top of it, writing the American
League baseball standings from early in the 2009 season on the
chalkboard inside the locker room. He pointed out that the New York
Yankees were in third place, as were the Minnesota Twins. Both
teams came back to win division titles, with the Yankees eventually
capturing the World Series.
"I felt we needed motivation for our fans and for our team,"
Pitino said. "I told them, 'Stop panicking and stop worrying."'
Instead, the Cardinals started playing. Louisville (6-3) held
undermanned Oral Roberts (6-6) to 39 percent shooting and forced 21
"Coach is terrific with that kind of stuff," said guard Jerry
Smith, who finished with 14 points. "I've been here four years and
it's something different every time. We just came out with a ton of
Dominique Morrison led Oral Roberts (6-6) with 17 points, but
the injury-depleted Golden Eagles couldn't keep up after Louisville
took control with a 27-4 run midway through the first half. Oral
Roberts suited up eight players and seven saw action.
There was a moment of silence before the game to honor
evangelist Oral Roberts, who founded the university and passed away
on Tuesday at age 91. Oral Roberts coach Scott Sutton said while he
was "saddened" by Roberts' passing he doesn't believe it affected
"I think it's the worst defeat I've had in 11 years," Sutton
said. "We did a horrendous job of taking care of the basketball
and they made us pay."
Louisville turned Oral Roberts' miscues into 37 points, exactly
what the Cardinals were looking for after they were upset with
relative ease by Charlotte and Western Carolina.
"Nobody wanted to get embarrassed again," Samuels said.
Slow starts are nothing new for Louisville. The Cardinals have
lost three games before New Year's in each of the last three
seasons only to make runs in the NCAA tournament.
Yet this slide felt different, and the players allowed as much
after looking lost on the court at times against the Catamounts and
"I was so mad I didn't know what to do," said Samuels, who has
struggled in his sophomore season. "It was one of the lowest
points of my basketball career."
The Cardinals hope they have already passed rock bottom and
started getting a bit of their swagger back after ambushing the
Golden Eagles during a 10-minute stretch midway through the first
The teams traded baskets for the first 5 minutes before
Louisville erupted behind Sosa and the kind of all-around effort
Pitino has only seen sporadically this season.
Playing arguably its best 10 minutes of the season, Louisville
buried Oral Roberts during a 27-4 burst featuring suffocating
fullcourt pressure and some sizzling shooting.
A theft by Rakeem Buckles ended up with Sosa hitting one of his
four 3-pointers, and the Cardinals were just getting started. A
steal by Kyle Kuric led to an acrobatic layup by Peyton Siva as the
Golden Eagles had to fight just to get into their offense.
"I think the win tonight had to do with sharing the
basketball," Sosa said as the Cardinals finished with 26 assists
on 35 baskets.
Perhaps even better was Louisville's 3-point defense. Charlotte
and Western Carolina each knocked down 10 3-pointers in their wins
over the Cardinals.
Oral Roberts made just two of 17 3-point attempts Wednesday, and
if Pitino needed proof that his message had been received, he got
it from Smith.
The senior, who has battled injuries and poor shot selection so
far this year, ended up blocking a 3-pointer by Oral Roberts' Ken
Holdman then raced to get the ball. Smith stepped out of bounds
when he finally got a hand on it, but his effort drew a rousing
ovation from the crowd and a respectful head nod from his coach.
The Cardinals breezed into halftime with a 52-29 lead and
despite a couple of sluggish moments early in the second half, the
outcome was never in doubt as the Golden Eagles failed to duplicate
upsets of Missouri and Stanford earlier in the season.