LOUISVILLE — Louisville appears to be over its early December doldrums.
Still, Coach Rick Pitino isn't saying the Cardinals are ready for life in the Big East, even after posting a relatively easy 79-53 win over Radford on Sunday.
"We've taken baby steps to get where we want to be," Pitino said. "We have so much growth (to do). We're not where we want to be or where we will be."
Maybe the Cardinals are a little closer after posting their fourth straight victory.
Samardo Samuels continued his strong play with 18 points and 14 rebounds as Louisville (9-3) dominated the visiting Highlanders (5-5) from the opening tip.
With a dozen NBA scouts in attendance to get a look at Radford center Art Parakhouski, instead it was Samuels who impressed. Playing with the kind of defensive intensity Pitino said his talented sophomore has lacked at times, Samuels turned his matchup with Parakhouski into a mostly one-sided affair.
"It's all just coming to me," Samuels said. "Knowing to be in the right position. Today my team needed me to rebound, and that's what I wanted to do."
Samuels had plenty of help. The Cardinals outrebounded Radford 46-33. Sophomore forward Kyle Kuric had six points and nine rebounds in 19 energetic minutes as U of L's reserves provided a major lift.
The bench had 27 points and 22 boards as the deeper Cardinals harassed the Highlanders into 37 percent shooting while holding them to a season-low in points.
"We didn't play as great offensively and score as many points as we like, but our defense was great," said Louisville guard Edgar Sosa. "Our defense and rebounding won the game for us, and Samardo had another monster game."
Samuels scored nine points during a 12-0 first-half run, and the Cardinals kept Parakhouski in check. He finished with 14 points and eight rebounds. The senior entered the game averaging 22.7 points and 14.0 boards, tops in the nation.