USA TODAY Sports
Louisville is much better at basketball than South Florida is. They proved it on Saturday.
Louisville exorcised the demons of last season's ugly senior day loss to South Florida by hammering the Bulls 64-38 in a game that was pretty much over just minutes after the opening tip.
The Cards raced out to a 19-3 lead and led by as many as 25 points in the first half thanks in large part to 12 second chance points and an overall rebounding advantage of 30-10. Chane Behanan, who didn't start but returned to the court after missing Wednesday's win over Seton Hall with an ankle sprain, had more rebounds (12) by himself than the entire USF team at the break.
The early offensive attack was led by Peyton Siva, who connected on his first three 3-point attempts and finished with a game-high 17 points. A driving lay-up late in the first half made Siva Louisville's 64th career 1,000-point scorer, a total surpassed only by North Carolina's 67.
Gorgui Dieng was the other star for the Cards, again dominating the inside to the tune of 12 points and 16 rebounds. The 16 rebounds matched Dieng's career high. Gorgui has now recorded a double-double in all three of the games he's started since coming back from the left wrist fracture he suffered in November.
South Florida entered Saturday's game averaging just 10.9 turnover per game, the 12th best mark in the country. Louisville forced the Bulls into 19 turnovers, and also held them to their lowest overall point total ever in Big East play.
It was a performance that delighted head coach Rick Pitino, who was furious with his team's defensive performance in the first half against Seton Hall.
"From the Seton Hall halftme until now, I couldn't be more pleased," Pitino said after the game.
The Cards won easily despite a second straight off-night from leading scorer Russ Smith. Smith, who was dealing with a slight ankle injury and sat out most of the second half, was just 2-for-13 from the field and scored only eight points. He played a season-low 18 minutes and failed to reach double figures for the first time this season.
One final note: Charlie Strong can rock the mock t/sweater vest combo harder than anyone I've ever seen. For that alone, the monster ovation he received was warranted.