Smith scores 25 as No. 14 Cards top DePaul 76-59
LOUISVILLE, Ky.—Russ Smith scored 25 points, Chris Smith added 20 and No. 14 Louisville got back on the right track with a 76-59 victory over DePaul on Saturday despite not having leading scorer Kyle Kuric.
The Cardinals (14-4, 2-3 Big East) had lost four of their previous five games, but avoided their first three-game home losing streak in 11 years by jumping out to an early lead against the Blue Demons and thwarting a late rally.
Kuric, averaging 13 points, sustained a high left ankle sprain in practice earlier this week after the Cardinals had already lost to Providence by 31 points. But Louisville capitalized from the start and used an early 11-0 run to seize control against DePaul.
Brandon Young scored 14 points for the Blue Demons (10-7, 1-4), who cut the lead to five points with just under 7 minutes to play but never got closer.
Louisville has won eight straight in the series and 20 of the last 22. Gorgui Dieng added 13 points and 14 rebounds for the Cardinals, who shot 50.9 percent from the field after averaging 39.4 percent over their previous five games.
Louisville led by nine at halftime and pushed it to 54-50 with 9:44 left when Russ Smith broke out and hit a reverse layup in transition before DePaul would answer.
Worrel Clahar hit 3-pointers in consecutive trips, Moses Morgan added another and freshman Derrell Robertson Jr. scored down low to cut it to 56-51. After the teams traded baskets, Louisville responded with a 7-0 spurt that included a short jumper from Rakeem Buckles, a 3-pointer by Chris Smith in the corner and a steal and slam by Peyton Siva that made it 65-53 with 4:35 left.
Young hit two more 3s, DePaul's ninth and 10th of the game, but never got within striking distance in the closing minutes.
DePaul's leading scorer, Cleveland Melvin, finished with eight points, 10.6 less than his season average, and committed six turnovers. The Blue Demons have lost 66 of their last 71 Big East games.
The Cardinals got off to the fast start they desperately needed after a 90-59 loss at Providence on Tuesday night. Louisville used an 11-0 run to take an 18-5 lead just over 6 minutes in.
Louisville's Kevin Ware crashed the boards and put back a miss from Chris Smith that made it 27-13 and when DePaul tried to run, the Cardinals defense was ready. Dieng successfully defended a 2-on-1 break by forcing a pass and still blocking Morgan's shot. Ware stopped another break when he forced Young into an awkward layup attempt, then blocked a shot on the next possession that led to a shot clock violation.
In another sequence, Krys Faber grabbed a rebound then threw an outlet pass to Melvin that hit the back of Melvin's head. Russ Smith collected the loose ball, scored and was fouled, converting the three-point play to make it 34-20 and would lead by as many as 16 before DePaul made it interesting.