ROSEMONT, Ill. – DePaul and No. 10 Louisville combined for 36 personal fouls and 48 free throw attempts on Wednesday night. And there were several close plays that could have drawn a whistle.
Blue Demons coach Oliver Purnell thought it was just too much.
"The game shouldn't be that physical," he said. "It shouldn't be that more physical than an NBA game, particularly as we get close to tournament time. We want games to be entertaining and teams to score and that kind of thing. It shouldn't be that physical."
Russ Smith and Peyton Siva made the most of all those fouls, leading the speedy Cardinals to a 79-58 victory over DePaul that ran their winning streak to four ahead of a big matchup with Syracuse this weekend.
Smith went 7 for 8 at the line and finished with 17 points, five assists and four steals. Siva made all six of his foul shots while scoring 16 points.
"It was very physical," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "I think the Big East, I equate it to being in the red zone in football. Everybody puts their hand on every cut and that's one of the reasons in college basketball scoring is way down because you have very little freedom in movement."
Chane Behanan added 10 points and nine rebounds for the Cardinals (23-5, 11-4 Big East), who held the Blue Demons to 36 percent shooting and forced 19 turnovers.
Louisville is unbeaten since it lost 104-101 in five overtimes at Notre Dame on Feb. 9 in the longest regular-season game in Big East history. With the victory over sliding DePaul, the Cardinals moved into a tie with Marquette for second place in the conference behind Georgetown.
Pitino's team meets the 12th-ranked Orange in the Carrier Dome and Notre Dame faces Marquette in a big slate of games for the Big East on Saturday.
Brandon Young scored 22 points and Cleveland Melvin had 20 for the Blue Demons (11-17, 2-13), who have dropped three in a row and 12 of 13 overall.
"I think we just let up," Young said. "We can go as hard as we want to. We just kept letting them do what they like to do. I don't think we stopped it real well."
Melvin converted a layup to get DePaul within eight with 7:22 remaining, but the Cardinals responded with a 10-0 run to put it away. Siva started the key spurt with two free throws and closed it out with a layup that made it 71-53 with 3:33 remaining.
"Every good team is going to make a run," Smith said. "They jumped out on us early and then we responded pretty well. I guess it was the simple fact we obviously didn't want to be embarrassed, so guys stepped up and we made some big plays."
Young made a 3-pointer with 3 minutes remaining to extend DePaul's streak with at least one to 607 games. But the Blue Demons were just 1 for 9 from long range.
Montrezl Harrell scored 11 points for the Cardinals, who went 25 for 31 at the line. Gorgui Dieng finished with 10.
Louisville and DePaul combined for 23 turnovers, 19 personal fouls and a slew of missed layups during a frenetic first half that included several conferences between the referees and upset coaches trying to angle for calls during the physical play.
Louisville was leading 21-16 when the 6-foot-6 Behanan stole a pass near midcourt, dribbled in and threw down a massive dunk over DePaul guard Worrel Clahar. Behanan was originally whistled for an offensive foul but it was changed to a block on Clahar after a short discussion by the officials, leading to a spirited argument from Purnell.
"When I stole the ball it was kind of weird how he didn't try to come up and guard me. He just stayed there," Behanan said. "I don't know. I drew a check that I cashed."
Behanan then made the free throw to give the Cardinals an eight-point lead with 4:21 remaining. The sophomore forward tacked on another jumper and Luke Hancock hit two foul shots with 43 seconds left in the first half as Louisville carried a 34-25 lead into the break.
The Cardinals shot just 38 percent in the first half, but held the Blue Demons to 27 percent shooting. Neither team had a 3-pointer at the break, combining to miss 10 shots from long range.
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap