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Louisville Tops Cincinnati For Sixth League Win

It took the University of Louisville basketball team 16 games to reach the six-win mark in its inaugural season in the Big East, it's taken the Cardinals half as much time to reach the same mark in their sophomore campaign.

Win number six came at the hands of an old rival, as Louisville (16-6, 6-2) downed Cincinnati 69-53 in the 89th meeting between the two programs.

Junior center David Padgett continued to prove that he is the heart and soul of this team by battling for 12 rebounds and scoring 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting. Sophomore forward Terrence Williams also continued his exceptional play, netting 13 points and grabbing 10 boards. And the resilient Juan Palacios was at it again, adding 13 points and coming just one rebound short of becoming the third U of L player to notch a double-double in the contest.

The three-headed monster that Cardinal fans envisioned before the season started is finally at full strength, and is the main reason Louisville has clawed its way back into the NCAA Tournament picture.

T-Will can totally slap backboard during lay-up lines

But it's been the 6-11 Padgett who has emerged as the vocal leader on the team, a position he can justifiably lay claim to because of the warrior mentality he's provided in the paint.

"David was tremendous tonight," coach Rick Pitino said. "He's now feeling about as good as he's felt. His threshold for coming back is like nothing we've ever seen. He's near to 100 percent now."

"I'm just feeling comfortable out there," Padgett said. "My legs are really starting to feel normal again. That's made all the difference in the world to me."

A combination of stingy defense and sloppy Cincinnati offense led to Louisville taking an 11-0 lead to start the game. Cincinnati missed its first seven shots and had three turnovers, a slump that finally ended on Deonta Vaughn's floating jumper with 14:18 left in the half.

But then Pitino's Clankinos (Did I just type that?) resurfaced and Louisville missed 10 straight tries from beyond the arc, allowing Cincinnati to cut the lead to 21-19 with 5:47 left. U of L responded with a 12-0 run, highlighted by two Jerry Smith treys, to extend the margin to 33-19 at the break.

Louisville went cold again in the last 10 minutes of the game, allowing the Bearcats to get within 10, but a T-Will three that just beat the shot clock with 1:25 left proved to be the ultimate dagger.

"We got beat by a better team. They've got more players, they've got better players and we got beat by a better team," UC head coach Mick Cronin said.

The Bearcats, who were led by Marvin Gentry's 22 points (I still have no idea how that happened), shot just 31% in the game. The loss marked the first time Cincinnati (10-11, 1-6) has had a losing record this deep into the season since the 1987-88 season.

Louisville, which has won four of its last five against its long time rival from the Queen City, has now won four straight and 11 of 13 since an ugly 5-4 start. The Cardinals are currently tied for second place with Marquette, but could be joined at 6-2 by Georgetown if the Hoyas are successful in their efforts to take out St. John's on Thursday.

Louisville now turns its attention towards an early Saturday afternoon date with Villanova, which is coming off consecutive losses to Notre Dame and Pitt. The Wildcats are just 3-5 in the Big East, but own wins over league powers Notre Dame and Georgetown.

I know I've said this before, but I think it bears repeating: It feels so wonderful for Louisville basketball to be fun again. Not that we all wouldn't still be here if things hadn't turned around, but this is a lot better, and not crying is an added bonus.