Hot-shooting Louisville routs Rutgers

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The beards grew longer Sunday.

A week after making a vow not to shave until they lose, the No. 13 Louisville Cardinals made short work of Rutgers, winning 102-54 Sunday night at the KFC Yum! Center.

Louisville jumped in front 10-2 en route to a 43-24 halftime lead, then opened the second half with a devastating 26-3 run to lead 69-27.

The only question from there was whether the Cardinals (21-4, 10-2 American Athletic Conference) would continue to double Rutgers’ score. They came close, but playing their second game in three nights and with another game scheduled for Tuesday, coach Rick Pitino substituted liberally.

“We played very well,” Pitino said. “We shot the ball extremely well (55.7 percent overall, 53.3 percent from 3-point range). When you shoot like that, the other parts of the game come around, too.

“Our defense and rebounding was good. (The Scarlet Knights) weren’t getting into the lane.”

The Cardinals, who received points from 12 players, won their fourth game in a row.

Senior forward Luke Hancock led Louisville with 25 points, hitting six of eight 3-point shots. Freshman reserve guard Terry Rozier scored 16 points, and junior forward Wayne Blackshear added 10.

Louisville senior All-America guard Russ Smith posted a season-low seven points, but he played just 17 minutes and took only four shots. He contributed five assists and four rebounds.

“Russ passed up a lot of shots,” Pitino said. “He was looking to pad his assist totals. It became obvious I didn’t need him, so I sat him out in the second half.”

Junior forward Kadeem Jack and junior guard Myles Mack had 10 points each to pace Rutgers (10-16, 4-9). The Scarlet Knights lost their second game in a row.

Louisville hit 16 of 30 three-point shots and 34 of 61 shots in all. Rutgers shot 35.4 percent (17 of 48), including 25 percent on treys (five of 20).

The Cardinals had a commanding 39-24 rebounding edge and forced 18 turnovers while committing just nine. Louisville finished with an 11-4 advantage in steals, a 23-10 edge in assists and a 5-1 advantage in blocks.

Louisville’s 3-point prowess came about because the Cardinals would drive, then kick the ball out to a wide-open shooter. Rutgers never stopped that strategy.

“They started out hitting shots, and it snowballed on us,” Rutgers coach Eddie Jordan said. “Their confidence and mojo was at a high. We didn’t get back well enough, and we didn’t find Hancock. Our guys have to do a better job to get out on shooters.”

Louisville sophomore forward Montrezl Harrell had one dunk, and he tied the school record for dunks in a season (59). He shares the mark with Pervis Ellison and Chane Behanan. Harrell had four points and nine rebounds.

“You have to give credit to Louisville,” Jordan said. “They have a great attack, they defensively change up their pressure … different ways they attack you. I told my team going in it’s how you handle all that. We just didn’t do that well enough.”

Pitino took responsibility for suggesting the no-shave approach and apologized for his scruffy look.

“It’s a motivational tool,” he said. “It puts some fun into the game. I probably need to dye mine.”

The Cardinals hit their first two 3-point shots, by Smith and Hancock, the team’s co-captains, and were on their way.

Louisville made six of its first nine 3-point shots and finished the half 7-for-13 from beyond the arc. The Cardinals shot 52 percent (14-for-27) overall before halftime. Rutgers shot just 32 percent (10-for-31) before the break, including 20 percent on 3-pointers (2-for-10).

Rozier led Louisville with 14 first-half points, while Hancock had nine.

Louisville’s largest lead before intermission was 36-16.

NOTES: The Cardinals play host to South Florida on Tuesday. Louisville crushed the Bulls 86-47 in Tampa on Jan. 22. … The Scarlet Knights’ next game is Thursday at home against Memphis. The Tigers routed Rutgers 101-69 on Feb. 4 in Memphis. … Louisville improved its record against Rutgers to 13-1. The Scarlet Knights’ only victory came in 2006, 10 games ago.