LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP)—Not even a dose of nostalgia could cure Louisville of its offensive woes on Saturday.
Ellis Myles scored 15 points and Taquan Dean and Larry O’Bannon each added 13 for the ninth-ranked Cardinals, who overcame their second straight poor shooting performance to beat South Florida 65-57.
At halftime, the Cardinals stayed on the bench to watch a ceremony honoring Louisville’s 1980 NCAA championship squad.
The players said the celebration provided an emotional burst—but it didn’t help their shooting.
The Cardinals (21-4, 9-2 Conference USA) finished 5-for-15 from 3-point range and were 20-of-54 overall (37 percent) in the game after shooting a season-low 33 percent in an 85-68 loss to Memphis on Wednesday.
“It’s a lack of running our offense,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. “We’re not doing a good job of making simple passes. We’ve just got to get back to basics and we’ll be fine.”
For most of the game against the Bulls, the Cardinals looked just as dysfunctional as they did against Memphis.
South Florida (10-12, 3-8) jumped to a 14-4 lead as Francisco Garcia, Dean and O’Bannon—Louisville’s top three scorers—failed to score in the first 10 minutes. O’Bannon missed an uncontested two-handed dunk and Dean banged a short jumper off the bottom of the backboard during the dry spell.
Dean said the Cardinals were trying too hard to atone for Wednesday’s loss.
“I admit I was pressing. Everybody was pressing,” Dean said.
Louisville’s defense triggered a 14-2 run, forcing six turnovers in a 5-minute span. O’Bannon’s layup with 8:11 left in the first half gave the Cardinals their first lead, 18-16.
But the Cardinals couldn’t shake the Bulls, leading only 27-24 at halftime after going 1-for-7 from 3-point range and 9-for-27 overall in the opening 20 minutes.
Pitino expected his players to struggle with the Memphis loss still fresh in their memories.
“After you have a loss like that, the first half is always a nightmare,” Pitino said. “You’ve got to get over it and not let it fester.”
South Florida coach Robert McCullum, meanwhile, was pleased with his team’s first-half performance.
“Our effort and focus was outstanding on both ends of the floor,” McCullum said. “Our guys came out and played with toughness in terms of things we had to do to execute.”
Pitino talked to his team before the ceremony commemorating the silver anniversary of Louisville’s first national championship. Former coach Denny Crum, leading scorer Darrell Griffith and the rest of that team shook hands with the current Cardinals before filing off the floor to a standing ovation.
“I wanted them to see the difference in how a team is loved when they win a championship,” Pitino said. “I wanted our guys to realize that all players are special. But when you win a championship, you’ll always be remembered.”
The Cardinals gradually opened a double-digit lead after halftime, but they continued to shoot poorly and never sustained a long scoring spurt.
Garcia hit his first 3-pointer with 14:17 left to start a 13-4 Louisville run. Dean’s 3-pointer 3 minutes later finished the burst, but the Cardinals then went 4 minutes without a point.
Marlyn Bryant converted a three-point play with 9:45 left during an 8-0 Bulls’ run that cut Louisville’s lead to 47-42.
But the Bulls were also plagued by bad shooting and never got closer. They went 3 minutes without a field goal as the Cardinals gradually pushed the lead back into double digits.
Bryant hit a 3-pointer with 1:04 left to end the Bulls’ drought, but the basket only cut Louisville’s lead to 63-54.
Terrence Leather scored 18 to lead the Bulls, who shot 10-of-29 in the second half (34.5 percent) and finished 20-of-51 (39 percent).
The Cardinals were averaging more than 85 points per game, fifth in the nation, but failed to reach 70 points in consecutive games for the first time this season.
“We’ve just got to get to the end of our offense and having fun again,” said Garcia, who went 2-for-7 from the field and 7-of-8 from the free throw line. “You’ve got to finish and get to the end of our plays and we’re not doing that.”