MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Chris Jones scored 15 of his 18 points in the first half, and fifth-ranked Louisville routed Rutgers 92-31 on Thursday in the quarterfinals of the American Athletic Conference tournament.
The Cardinals (27-5) have won three straight and 10 of their last 11 as they look for a third straight tournament title even if they're only in the American for one season. Louisville split the regular-season title with Cincinnati, but lost the top seed on a coin flip,
The defending national champion Cardinals will play Houston, which upset No. 25 SMU 68-64, in the semifinals.
Rutgers (12-21) led once at 7-6 as the Scarlet Knights hit their first three shots. But they wound up with far more turnovers (17) than made shots (seven) in the first half.
Russ Smith scored 16 points for Louisville, Terry Rozier had 14 and Luke Hancock and Montrezl Harrell each added 13.
The game featured the two teams making this season a pit stop between conferences. Louisville will be moving to the Atlantic Coast Conference in July, while Rutgers is headed for the Big Ten. The Scarlet Knights, who haven't beaten a ranked team away from home since 2008, wrapped up their one season in the American losing seven of their last nine.
This was the lowest scoring game by Rutgers since Feb. 22, 2011, when Louisville held the Scarlet Knights to 37 points. Myles Mack led Rutgers with eight points as the Scarlet Knights were held to a season worst in scoring and shooting (12 of 50). Louisville finished with 44 points off Rutgers' 26 turnovers
But March is when Louisville makes itself at home no matter the league, and the Cardinals are trying to win a third straight conference tournament title and fourth in six years. They now have won eight straight in league tournament games and improved to 13-2 over the last five.
Louisville struggled to shoot in the opening minutes. After Myles Mack hit a 3-poiner putting Rutgers up 7-6 with 16:46 left, Harrell scored on a hook shot with 16:20 to go putting Louisville ahead to stay. Louisville pushed its lead to double figures just before midway through the half on a 3-pointer by Jones in his hometown.
The Cardinals widened their lead from there, going up by 21 on a layup by Wayne Blackshear. Smith gave Louisville a 34-point lead with a 3-pointer, then two free throws with the only question whether the Cardinals would score 60 in the first half. They just missed that, leading 58-16 at the break.
Louisville came in second nationally in steals averaging 10 a game, and the Cardinals had that by halftime. They turned Rutgers' 17 turnovers into a 31-2 scoring edge by halftime. The Cardinals also dominated on the boards 50-33.
Coach Rick Pitino finally pulled Smith and Stephan Van Treese with 13:05 left and Louisville up 70-25. With 9:36 left, Jones was the lone starter still on the floor. Jones finally left to some applause with 6:08 left and an 83-30 lead.