Louisville uses size, defense to rout North Florida 89-61
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Louisville had the size, athleticism and defense to counter North Florida's potent outside game. The Cardinals just didn't expect their newcomers to flex those strengths so soon or so effectively.
Good thing they did.
Damion Lee scored 24 points for his career best with Louisville, and the Cardinals broke open a close game at halftime to run away from North Florida for an 89-61 victory on Saturday.
The Cardinals (3-0) ruled the boards (53-22) and inside scoring (58-16) throughout but only led 43-41 at the break as the Ospreys countered with nine of their 11 3-pointers. Louisville sped up the tempo on both ends after that to quickly pull away behind newcomers such as Lee, a graduate transfer from Drexel who made 10 of 16 attempts including a pair of 3-pointers.
''It was just paying attention to detail, keeping them off the 3,'' said Lee, who scored 12 second-half points. ''When they make the 3, that's their bread and butter. When we take that away from them, it makes us better.''
Six-foot-10 freshman forward Ray Spalding provided the Cardinals' biggest boost with career bests of 18 points and 12 rebounds. Called into action with his team trying to keep up with the Ospreys, the Louisville native keyed a rally with eight first-half points to get rolling toward an unexpected double-double.
''It was a little surprising, but I couldn't have done it without my teammates,'' Spalding said after making 8 of 10 shots and four steals. ''Whenever he (coach Rick Pitino) calls my name, I have to be ready.''
Pitino said of Spalding, ''we didn't expect 18 points, 12 rebounds and 2 blocks. That was an incredible coming-out party for him.''
Guard Trey Lewis, another graduate transfer from Cleveland State, had 15 points for the Cardinals. Sophomore center Chinanu Onuaku added nine rebounds, six points, five assists and five steals.
Dallas Moore's 21 points led North Florida (3-1), which shot 50 percent from long range but just 35 percent overall. Beau Beech added 18 points for the Ospreys.
The Cardinals made 21 of 34 in the second half to finish 38 of 75 (51 percent) and earn their third lopsided win in as many games.
''The second-half was an awesome, awesome display, as good a half of basketball as I've seen since I've been here at both ends of the floor," Pitino added.
This victory took some work, though.
The nation's leader in 3-pointers per game (16) coming in, the Ospreys needed just four seconds to show their hand as Trent Mackey drained the first of many long-range shots in a back-and-forth first half featuring interesting statistics. Louisville dominated the boards 31-13 and the paint 28-8 but it almost didn't matter because of North Florida's perimeter effectiveness.
But size and defense still matter, and the Cardinals used both strengths to rally and eventually cruise.
Louisville sealed off the inside and outside to North Florida, which made just 2 of 7 from behind the arc after halftime. The Ospreys shot just 28 percent in the second half and trailed by 30 with four minutes left.
''They've got so much length and the ability to continue to relentlessly go after every single shot multiple times,'' Ospreys coach Matthew Driscoll said of the Cardinals. ''It eventually can wear you down.''
And it did.
North Florida: Beech finished with four 3-pointers, including one from near half court to end the first half. ... The Ospreys committed 15 turnovers.
Louisville: The Cardinals started a three-guard lineup for the first time with Lewis, Lee and Quentin Snider, who finished with nine points and six assists. ... Freshman wing Deng Adel sprained his knee in practice Friday and did not play. Pitino said he could be available by Thanksgiving.
Former Louisville star Kyle Kuric drew a standing ovation from the crowd during an emotional first-half interview broadcast from Spain, where he's recovering from emergency surgery earlier this month to remove a brain tumor. Kuric smiled throughout and thanked fans for their support.
North Florida: Visits Saint Louis on Tuesday.
Louisville: Hosts St. Francis (Brooklyn) on Tuesday.