LOUISVILLE, Ky. — In a sloppy, foul-marred game, the No. 12 Louisville Cardinals never trailed and beat the Central Florida Knights 87-70 Saturday night at the KFC Yum! Center.
UCF was in the bonus just 5:20 into the second half and had just two fouls at that point, but soon caught up, with both teams in the double bonus with 10:08 left to play.
Senior All-American guard Russ Smith led Louisville (18-4, 7-2 American Athletic Conference) with 27 points, including eight of the Cardinals first 12 and 10 straight points midway through the second half.
Senior forward Luke Hancock had 16 points, sophomore forward Montrezl Harrell 14 and junior forward Wayne Blackshear 10. Blackshear got the start after coming off the bench the previous five games.
UCF (9-10, 1-7), which has lost six straight, was led by senior forward Tristan Spurlock with 20 points. Senior guard Calvin Newell had 12. Senior swingman Isaiah Sykes, the team’s leading scorer at 15.6 points-per-game coming in, got just eight and was 2-of-12 from the field. He was guarded most of the game by Blackshear. Sykes did have 11 rebounds.
After getting off to a 12-1 lead, Louisville led 37-27 at the half. The Cardinals scored the first five points of the second half, and UCF got no closer than nine points thereafter.
Smith had eight of the 12 points for the Cardinals, hitting two 3-pointers and making two free throws.
Central Florida made just one of his first 11 shots from the field. The Knights then warmed up, hitting six of their next 12, several on runouts, and closed the gap to 26-21 with 6:38 left in the half.
Louisville made eight of its first 14 shots from the floor and then cooled, hitting just two of its next 12 and going four minutes without scoring.
The Cardinals ending the half making 13 of 32 for 41 percent. UCF was 8 of 26 for 31 percent.
Smith led Louisville with 14 first-half points despite sitting out the final six minutes of the half after making two straight sloppy turnovers.
NOTES: Only two players who started against Louisville on Dec. 31 — senior F Isaiah Sykes and senior G Calvin Newell — are still starting for UCF. Sykes had 19 points and nine rebounds on Dec. 31. Newell had nine points. … Louisville’s next game is Wednesday at Houston. UCF will entertain South Florida on Wednesday.
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