Louisville coach Rick Pitino is thrilled with what his team has accomplished so far in Big East play, and he sees this season only getting better.
Pitino’s seventh-ranked Cardinals look to stay undefeated in conference play on Wednesday when they try to win their ninth straight game over visiting South Florida.
In the highly competitive Big East, Louisville (15-3, 6-0) has already been faced with several challenges, and it has met every one.
The Cardinals are coming off Sunday’s 67-57 win at then-No. 8 Syracuse, their fourth victory over a Top 25 opponent in the last five games.
“It is very gratifying to be 6-0,” Pitino said after Louisville’s first win at the Carrier Dome and its seventh straight overall. “The thing that I like the most is that we’re nowhere near our potential. They all are going to get better and better and better.”
His players looked pretty strong on Sunday.
Earl Clark had 16 points, 13 rebounds and five assists, while Terrence Williams finished with 15 points, nine boards and five steals.
The Cardinals had another solid game defensively, holding the Orange, who came in averaging 80.5 points on a conference-best 50.4 percent shooting, to season lows in points and field goal percentage (35.3).
Louisville has one of the top defenses in the Big East - first in field goal percentage (38.0) and third in scoring (60.5) - and has already frustrated South Florida (7-12, 2-5) once this season. The Cardinals limited the Bulls to 36.5 percent shooting in their conference-opening 71-57 victory on Jan. 7.
Clark had 22 points and nine rebounds in the win. He’s averaging 16.0 points in three career games against the Bulls.
Louisville has won by an average of 19.4 points during its eight-game run against South Florida to take a 22-3 advantage in the all-time series.
Williams had only four points in the win over the Bulls three weeks ago, but he’s been carrying the Cardinals lately. The 6-foot-6 senior forward is averaging 20.5 points on 55.0 percent shooting and 10.8 rebounds in his last four games.
The Cardinals, who play their next three games at Freedom Hall, have won 18 of their last 19 at home.
That does not bode well for South Florida, which has lost 24 straight road games against Top 25 opponents since an 81-76 win at then-No. 15 Tulane on Feb. 6, 1992.
The Bulls lost to then-No. 20 Villanova 70-61 on Saturday and their only two victories in Big East play have come against DePaul, which is 0-7 in the conference.
South Florida, which faltered down the stretch of losses to Pittsburgh, Syracuse and West Virginia, pulled within two points with 1:33 remaining on Saturday, but could get no closer.
“We’ve got to find a way to finish games like this,” second-year coach Stan Heath said.
Leading scorer Dominique Jones had a rough outing on Saturday, scoring 11 points on 3-of-9 shooting before fouling out with over five minutes left. He had averaged 26.3 points on 45.6 percent shooting in his previous four games.
Jones had 11 points on 1-for-10 shooting in the Jan. 7 loss to Louisville.
The Bulls have dropped nine straight games against ranked opponents since a 69-63 win over then-No. 21 Notre Dame on Feb. 3, 2007.