HOUSTON – Houston couldn't overcome an early cold shooting stretch against Louisville.
Russ Smith scored 17 points and No. 14 Louisville and the Cardinals weathered a second half rally by the Cougars to beat Houston 77-62 on Wednesday night.
TaShawn Thomas had 14 points and eight rebounds, and Jherrod Stiggers added 14 points to lead the Cougars (11-12, 3-7), who dropped their fifth straight and have lost seven of their last eight games. Danuel House had 11 for Houston.
Houston shot 46 percent from the field but committed 14 turnovers, leading to 24 points for the Cardinals.
Houston coach James Dickey said there were three areas the Cougars have yet to correct and have to: playing a full 40 minutes, not turning the ball over and making free throws.
"We defended really well in the second half," Dickey said. "Our guys really competed. We cannot give up 45-50 points in one half or the other. We've had a tendency to do that. Second thing is we can't turn the ball over. They're the best in the country at converting turnovers into points. They had 24 points off turnovers, and eight points off rebounds. You cannot contribute to a quality team, and they're certainly championship caliber.
Luke Hancock added 15 points, hitting eight of nine free throws, while Montrezl Harrell also had 15 for the Cardinals (19-4, 8-2 American).
The Cardinals shot just under 70 percent from the field in the first half, including 6 of 10 from behind the arc in building a 19-point halftime lead. Louisville finished the game shooting 56 percent.
Trailing 53-33 with 16 minutes remaining, Houston used an 18-7 run over the next 8 1-2 minutes to close within nine on Tione Womack's runner with 7:37 left. Stiggers had eight points in the run.
"In the second half, we woke up," Thomas said. "In the first half, I feel like they were playing harder than us and in the second half we kind of woke up and realized that we can play with them. We started to come back, but just didn't have enough to get the lead back."
Louisville responded by pushing the lead back to 71-56 with 4:43 remaining on a Jones jumper. Houston would get no closer than 11 the rest of the way.
Louisville opened up a 15-point lead with an 18-3 run over a 6 1/2 minute stretch of the first half. Smith had six points on two three-pointers in the run that was capped by a Jones 3-pointer with 7:46 remaining in the half to make it 29-14. Houston was 0 for 3 from the field with five turnovers during Louisville's run.
"We didn't defend and we turned the ball over," Dickey said about Louisville's first half run. "Without looking at the film it was turnover and score. They had 18 points in the first half of turnovers, and a 19-point lead at the half. We have to take good care of the ball."
The Cardinals lead expanded from there, growing to 40-19 on a Jones 3-point play with 4:13 to go in the first half.
Louisville led 45-26 at the half.
Houston played in front of its largest crowd of the season at 7,247, and it was the largest since January 30, 2008 against No. 1 Memphis with a crowd of 8,198.
"I loved it," Thomas said of the crowd. "The crowd helped us out a lot. I feel like if the crowd wasn't there then we wouldn't have been able to stay in it like we were because the crowd stayed in it the whole game with us."
Houston honored longtime head coach and 2013 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Guy V. Lewis in a pre-game ceremony. Former players including former NBA head coach Don Chaney and Hall of Famer Elvin Hayes were in attendance for the ceremony in which Lewis was presented with a proclamation that Wednesday was 'Guy V. Lewis Day in the city of Houston.
"It is a beautiful thing," Thomas said of honoring Lewis. "I feel like it should have happened a couple of years ago. I kind of feel like it is too long that we are just now doing it for him."