LOUISVILLE — Louisville has been so hot lately that you had to wonder whether the Cards would have been better off missing a few shots in Monday night's mismatch against Morgan State and saving them for Friday's big one against Kentucky.
Fresh off a rout of Western Kentucky in which they shot 65 percent and made 16 of 30 three-pointers, the Cardinals were at it again, shooting a blistering 17-for-23 from beyond the arc in a 104-74 blowout of the Bears.
The Cards shot so well, Coach Rick Pitino could almost overlook what he called a poor defensive effort from his team.
"The old basketball cliché says shooting kills a multitude of sins," Pitino said. "I haven't seen shooting like the last two games in a while, and that's a result of great passing."
Senior guard Preston Knowles led the charge with a career-high 31 points. The Clark County native hit his jumpers in a variety of ways: off the dribble, in transition, coming off screens. His deep pull-up three just before the horn sent the Cards to a 58-28 lead at the half.
Junior forward Kyle Kuric played like the guy who torched No. 1 Syracuse for 22 second-half points last season in the Freedom Hall finale. Like Knowles, he had a career high in points with 23. Kuric was 7-for-10 from three-point range, and his two non-three-pointers were a pair of dunks: one a highlight-reel, one-handed follow-up and the other a two-handed slam off an alley-oop.
Terrence Jennings added 15 for the Cards, and Chris Smith had 10 points and six assists. Point guard Peyton Siva, who had a career-high 29 points against WKU, was a facilitator this time, scoring five points and dishing out seven assists to go with five steals.
Morgan State had all kinds of issues with Louisville's full-court press, turning the ball over 26 times. U of L scored 37 points off those turnovers and had an 18-8 advantage in fastbreak points. Louisville also had eight dunks.
But when Morgan State didn't turn it over, it was able to get good looks, shooting a respectable 46.4 percent from the floor. Sophomore DeWayne Jackson looked like a future big-timer with 22 points.
When asked to sum up his team's defense, Pitino said, "It sucked."
"We got beat off the bounce, we didn't trap the post, we didn't close out, we didn't trap on baseline, we didn't talk in transition," he said.
Nevertheless, the 22nd-ranked Cardinals improved to 11-1. They have three days off before welcoming the No. 11 Cats to the KFC Yum Center. In the game's waning moments, the crowd of 21,688 erupted into a "Beat UK" chant.
Pitino said he hasn't seen a lot of the Cats but was going to start watching game film Monday night. He knows things won't come as easily as they did against Morgan State.
"We're not going to get the looks we've been getting the next time out, so we need to focus on executing," he said. "Kentucky's not going to give you those looks. "
Justice iffy for UK
Freshman guard Elisha Justice missed his second straight game with a concussion and Pitino said he expects the Shelby Valley product to miss the Kentucky game as well. "We'll just try and get him ready for the Big East season," Pitino said.
No. 22 LOUISVILLE 104, MORGAN ST. 74
MORGAN ST. (4-6) — D. Jackson 8-19 1-2 22, Thompson 3-8 4-5 10, Stokes 4-5 0-2 8, Bastfield 1-3 3-3 5, Brooks 4-6 5-6 13, Johnson 0-1 0-0 0, Lawal 1-2 1-1 3, Black 2-7 0-0 6, J. Jackson 0-0 0-0 0, Ali 2-3 0-2 4, Banks 1-2 0-0 3. Totals 26-56 14-21 74.
LOUISVILLE (11-1) — C. Smith 4-4 2-4 10, Kuric 9-13 0-0 25, Dieng 1-3 0-0 2, Knowles 9-14 7-7 31, Siva 2-4 1-2 5, Goode 0-3 0-0 0, Buckles 2-3 0-0 6, Henderson 1-1 0-0 3, Jennings 6-11 3-4 15, R. Smith 2-5 0-0 5, Van Treese 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 37-63 13-17 104.
Halftime—Louisville 58-28. Three-point goals—Morgan St. 8-17 (D. Jackson 5-11, Black 2-4, Banks 1-2), Louisville 17-23 (Kuric 7-10, Knowles 6-9, Buckles 2-2, R. Smith 1-1, Henderson 1-1). Fouled out—None. Rebounds—Morgan St. 28 (Thompson 9), Louisville 35 (Buckles, Dieng 6). Assists—Morgan St. 13 (Thompson 4), Louisville 25 (Siva 7). Total fouls—Morgan St. 14, Louisville 18. Technical—D. Jackson. A—21,688.