A 13-0 second-half run blew open a two possession game as No. 6 Louisville beat visiting in-state rival Western Kentucky 79-63 Saturday at the KFC Yum! Center.
Playing without starting point guard Chris Jones, Louisville shifted preseason All-American guard Russ Smith to the point guard spot and Smith didn't disappoint. He finished the game with 14 points, 10 assists and was a key factor in Louisville's press.
Louisville, now 9-1, battled Western Kentucky (5-4) for much of the first half. The game started off slowly with the teams combining for 8 points in the first five minutes and nearly as many turnovers. At the 13 minute mark, Louisville led 8-4, but Western Kentucky cut the margin to 9-8 two possessions later.
The scoring picked up, but Western stuck with the Cardinals and even led 19-15 with just over eight minutes left in the half. After trailing 21-17, Louisville scored six straight points to regain the lead 23-21.
Down 28-25, Louisville took the lead heading into halftime on back-to-back threes by Wayne Blackshear. Mangok Mathiang led all scorers with 10 points, and Blackshear had eight.
The Cardinals pushed the lead to 36-28 at the start of the second half. After Western cut the margin to 38-33, Louisville scored back-to-back buckets to increase its lead to nine points.
A three by Russ Smith gave Louisville's its first double-digit lead at 45-33 with 15:05 left. WKU wouldn't go away easily, cutting Louisville's lead to 47-40 with just under 13 minutes left before a three by Luke Hancock pushed the margin back to 10.
WKU cut the lead to 50-44, but a 13-0 run made Louisville's lead double digits again at 63-44. During Louisville's run, Western missed nine shots in a row.
Louisville continued to roll, leading 79-58 with just under a minute left in the game after Tim Henderson's fourth three of the game.