A 23-6 run fueled by hot second-half shooting helped No. 10-ranked Louisville beat College of Charleston, 78-63, Wednesday night at Freedom Hall in Louisville, Ky. U of L, which had topped Middle Tennessee Tuesday night in the Billy Minardi Classic, finished with four players in double-figure scoring led by 16 points from freshman Terrence Williams.
"We're playing well defensively," Coach Rick Pitino said, "We're rotating effectively and working defensively and that is what I am most proud of. Our offense will come along... We're still a work in progress."
After building an early 19-7 lead on a floating jumpshot by Brandon Jenkins in the lane, Louisville pushed the lead to 26-11 with defensive pressure. The Cards held the Cougars without a field goal from the 14:20 mark of the first half until a Renardo Dickerson jumper on a fast break with 6:25 remaining cut the U of L lead to 26-13.
A steal by Charleston's Dontaye Draper resulted in a three-point swing when he was fouled by Dean on the way to the basket. Charleston's Jermaine Johnson connected on a rebound putback to cut the U of L lead to eight, and Louisville's Juan Palacios hit just 1-4 from the line on successive possessions.
Charleston's Drew Hall hit a long jumper, but Louisville answered with a three from Jenkins, breaking a stretch of four minutes without a field goal. The Cougars cut the Cardinal lead to just six, 29-23, on a free throw from David Lawrence with 2:49 remaining in the first half.
Louisville closed the first half with a 34-23 lead after a lay-up from Padgett and a three from freshman Bryan Harvey.
Trailing by 11 to start the half, Charleston coach Tom Herrion seemed determined to get the ball inside to big men Josh Jackson and Jermaine Johnson. A pair of free throws by Jackson started the scoring for the Cougars. After a dunk by Jenkins, Charleston fed the post again, resulting in another pair of free-throws from Jackson.
A three-pointer by CofC's David Lawrence and another by Draper cut the U of L lead to just five points, 38-33, with 15:23 remaining. The Cougars kept the score close, even pulling within four points on a postmove from Jackson with just over 11 minutes left in the game. That's when the Cards broke the game open with hot-shooting from beyond the arc.
U of L's winning scoring spurt started with 10:47 remaining in the game on a drive from Jenkins. A three by Palacios and a three by freshman Andre McGee put Louisville up 54-42. Charleston answered with a three from Draper and 1-2 foul shooting from Johnson to push the margin back to 54-46.
The Cards pushed back with three straight three-pointers. First, McGee hit a three with just over eight minutes remaining. Then, Dean made a three-pointer from the top of the key and McGee hit a three from the corner to put Louisville ahead 63-46. A pair of free throws from Charleston's Renardo Dickerson paused the Louisville scoring calvacade for a moment before Padgett hit a jumper, Williams had a steal and a dunk and Padgett had a lay-up on the break to give Louisville its largest margin at 69-48.
Louisville closed out the game with a 78-63 margin of victory led by Williams' 16 points. Jenkins finished with 13, Padgett had 12 and freshman point guard McGee scored a career-high 11 points on 4-5 shooting from the field. The Cougars were led by 16 from Draper and 13 points from Jackson.
Jenkins was named the Billy Minardi Tournament's Most Valuable Player while the Cards' Williams and Padgett were named to the All-Tournament team. Williams, McGee and freshman power forward Brian Johnson each recorded career-high scoring games against Charleston.
Louisville improved their December record under Pitino to 36-3, while the Cards have an amazing 78-10 record under Pitino when holding an opponent under 70 points.