LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP)—Francisco Garcia turned some open looks into a big night—for himself and the Louisville Cardinals.
Garcia scored 18 of his career-high 29 points in the first half as No. 19 Louisville beat Morehead State 104-40 on Monday night.
“I was shooting my open shots, which I don’t normally do,” Garcia said. “The focus today was to just get better. We just got to keep the intensity level as if we were 20 up. We just wanted to keep playing and getting better in every aspect of the game.”
The margin of victory was not a record for Louisville. The school won by 72 points on Dec. 2, 1944, 99-27 over Georgetown College. Nor was it a record for coach Rick Pitino—his Kentucky team beat Tennessee-Martin 124-50 during the 1994-95 season.
“It was an exceptional defensive game for us,” Pitino said. “We had a record number of deflections (60) and forced 30 turnovers. And we wanted to protect the 3-point line, which we did. We kept changing our presses, which helped us in the first half.”
The victory came a day after Pitino learned his mother had passed away.
“My mom was a big basketball fan,” Pitino said. “She wanted me here certainly.
“She suffered the last nine months or so, so it was a blessing for her to pass. She is in a much better place. I’ll miss her.”
Louisville (9-2) scored the game’s first 19 points, including eight from Garcia. The Cardinals made seven of their first 10 shots, including 4-of-5 from 3-point range, during the spurt.
Garcia finished 11-of-17 from the field, including 4-of-8 from long range, as Louisville made a season-high 14 of 30 shots from behind the arc. Garcia’s previous high was 28 points against Cincinnati on March 11 during the Conference USA tournament.
Taquan Dean added 16 points and Larry O’Bannon had 14 for Louisville. Ellis Myles had 11 points and 11 rebounds.
Chad McKnight led the Eagles with 11 points, and Jonathan True added 10.
Morehead (6-4) finished just 15-of-50 from the field and made a season-high 30 turnovers.
“There are not a lot of positive things when you get beat that bad,” Morehead State coach Kyle Macy said. “We panicked in the first half, to tell you the truth. We had worked on the press all season, but for some reason, we turned it over 30 times, and that leads to 64-point losses.”
The Eagles missed their first five shots and made five turnovers before McKnight finally made two free throws with 15:22 left in the first half. McKnight’s layup with 14:39 left was Morehead’s first field goal, cutting the lead to 21-5.
The Cardinals then outscored Morehead 10-3 over the next 2 1/2 minutes to lead 31-8 with 11:05 left in the half.
“Early, we were back on our heels going the other way,” Macy said. “We didn’t handle the pressure very well. I guess that’s an understatement. No one stepped up when Chad McKnight was shut down.”
Louisville shot 51 percent from the field in the first half and led 51-26 at the break.