Louisville's Chinanu Onuaku (32) puts up a shot over the defense of Eastern Michigan's Brandon Nazione (4) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015, in Louisville, Ky. Louisville won 86-53. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Ea
Timothy D. Easley
December 12, 2015

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Pressure defense has defined Rick Pitino's coaching career but so far this season's Louisville team has shined on the other end of the court.

The Cardinals (7-1) overwhelmed Eastern Michigan 86-53 on Saturday, torching another opponent with better than 50 percent shooting for the seventh time in eight games this season.

''Let's face it,'' Pitino said. ''Although our defensive numbers are good, we're winning with offense.''

Damion Lee scored 16 points, all in the second half, as Louisville shot 53 percent from the field (31 of 58), the fifth time the Cardinals have finished above 53 percent.

''If we cut down from our mistakes of getting too deep or trying to make a certain type of pass, our shooting percentage could even be higher,'' Lee said. ''Fifty percent shooting as a team, you don't see that too often.''

Quentin Snider scored 13 points, Chinanu Onuaku had 12 and freshman Ray Spalding and Trey Lewis added 11 each for Louisville. The Cardinals had 20 assists on 31 field goals.

Raven Lee led Eastern Michigan (6-4) with 19 points. Freshman James Thompson IV had 12 points and 13 rebounds to earn his sixth straight double-double. Eastern Michigan shot 30 percent (19 of 64) from the field.

Lee, Louisville's leading scorer at 19 points per game, was held scoreless in the first half and the Cardinals appeared hesitant to attack Eastern Michigan's 2-3 zone early, relying on five 3s in the first 10 1/2 minutes to gain an early edge. Thompson's jumper cut the Louisville lead to one before a 7-0 run in 70 seconds made it 16-8 midway through the opening half.

Spalding and Snider, both local products, filled Lee's void as the Cardinals worked together to score. Spalding had six points, two rebounds, two assists, two blocks and a steal in the opening half while Snider had 10 points. Snider's floater at the buzzer gave Louisville a 37-21 lead.

''At halftime it was a 16-point game,'' Eastern Michigan coach Rob Murphy said. ''We were 0 for 11 from 3; they were 5 of 12 from 3. I thought that was the difference.''

A 10-0 Louisville burst to start the second half put the game out of reach at 47-21. Lee later capped an 8-0 run with consecutive 3s that gave Louisville a 62-30 lead with 12:18 to play. Spalding and Onuaku had seven rebounds each for Louisville.

Lee knows no matter how well the Cardinals are scoring, Pitino won't stop pushing his hallmark defensive skills that could further catapult a young team.

''We can outscore a team or just be better on the offensive standpoint but in the end, for the ultimate goal, we have to be able to play defense and get stops,'' Lee said.

TIP-INS

Eastern Michigan: The Eagles had nine steals after entering third in the nation (11.4 per game). ... The Eagles had won four of their last five games. ... Starting guard Tim Bond left in the second half with a sprained ankle. ... Louisville and Eastern Michigan both lost at now-No. 1 Michigan State.

Louisville: The Cardinals entered leading the nation in rebounding margin (18.9) and scoring margin (30.3). They entered second in scoring defense with 55.7 points allowed per game. ... Freshman Donovan Mitchell finished with five points, six rebounds and seven assists. ... Lewis scored 11 points to go above 1,200 for his career. The graduate transfer played his first three seasons with Penn State and Cleveland State.

NO DROP OFF

The thing that has pleased Pitino the most is his team's depth and versatility.

''I think the best thing about the basketball team, you don't substitute and get weaker,'' Pitino said. ''The toughest thing I have to decide sometimes is who's going to start - which I've never had that difficulty - because they're all pretty much the same. They just do different things.''

No Louisville player is averaging more than 30 minutes a game. Eight players logged between 16 and 30 minutes against Eastern Michigan.

UP NEXT

Eastern Michigan visits Coppin State on Dec. 21.

Louisville hosts Kennesaw State on Wednesday.

You May Like