LAS VEGAS (AP)—The next time Louisville coach Rick Pitino plans a trip to Las Vegas, it’ll be all fun and games—a lot more fun and fewer games, that is.
Terrence Williams scored 20 points, Derrick Caracter added 13 and the sixth-ranked Cardinals rebounded from their first loss of the season with a 64-53 victory over Old Dominion on Saturday night in the Las Vegas Invitational.
Earl Clark had 11 points and 15 rebounds for the Cardinals (4-1), who couldn’t wait to escape the Orleans Arena’s locker room for some fun in Sin City after grinding through three games in four nights. They were upset by Brigham Young on Friday to ruin a prospective matchup with No. 1 North Carolina in the final of the eight-team event.
But a solid win salvaged the holiday weekend for the Cardinals, who were stretched to exhaustion by the tough schedule and the tougher Monarchs.
“It was real difficult on our guys, and it’s my fault for scheduling it,” said Pitino, who pitted his Cardinals against UNLV on Wednesday night before the Invitational. “I scheduled too many games. They were gasping for air, but they dug in there. They were really fatigued. We shouldn’t put them through this.”
Against Old Dominion, the Cardinals’ problems with defense and depth were tested for the second straight night. Pitino shuffled his starting lineup and refrained from forcing his players into aggressive pressing defenses to keep them fresh.
But Williams’ 39 minutes of solid play after a seven-turnover performance against BYU allowed Louisville to hold off another spirited effort from Old Dominion (3-3), which lost to top-ranked North Carolina one day earlier.
“It’s very tough, to be honest with you,” Williams said. “With Coach P, you have to go 100 percent every game. It gets tough, but we’re just happy to get the win because it shows a lot of character from this team to get a win after losing yesterday. … It would be a long trip home if we had lost tonight.”
Gerald Lee scored a career-high 20 points for the Monarchs, whose prospects for a Colonial Athletic Association title should be enhanced by two impressive showings against the nation’s elite teams. Brian Henderson hit four 3-pointers on the way to 14 points, and Old Dominion kept it close until Louisville closed with a 14-5 run over the final 4 1/2 minutes.
“To play against the quality of this competition, we have to be more consistent,” Old Dominion coach Blaine Taylor said. “Louisville made shots down the stretch, and they blocked more shots. Every time we needed a big basket, it didn’t go in.”
Jerry Smith scored 11 points and Caracter had eight rebounds for the Cardinals, who didn’t get that much-anticipated meeting with North Carolina. Instead, they got two tough tests that should serve them well as they adjust to playing without captain David Padgett, who could miss the season with a broken kneecap, and injured forward Juan Palacios.
“We kept saying we need heart now,” Williams said. “Now we’re looking forward to having some fun. We’ll probably go out and eat and bowl.”
Louisville took a 39-38 lead early in the second half and maintained it through the final 15 minutes, though Lee pulled the Monarchs to 47-46 on a layup with 6:03 to play. Point guard Edgar Sosa’s three-point play started an 8-2 run, and Sosa finished an eight-point second half on a dunk with 17 seconds to play.
Sosa has been bounced from the starting lineup by junior Andre McGee, who managed just one point and two assists in 15 minutes.
“I want to start bad, and everyone knows I want to start, but I really can’t complain,” said Sosa, who played 26 minutes. “Andre is playing good. I’ll get back to the starting lineup one day, even if it takes me until the tournament.”
Lee, a 6-foot-10 sophomore from Finland, set his previous career high with 19 points against Iona four days earlier. He grabbed eight rebounds and exposed the Cardinals’ troubles with guarding mobile big men, just as BYU’s Trent Plaisted did Friday night.
Louisville held Old Dominion scoreless in the first 6:40, going up 10-0 before Darius James’ running basket in the lane. The Monarchs gradually rallied back in an even first half, going ahead 28-26 just 1:16 before halftime on Abdi Lidonde’s layup.