Louisville, KY (SportsNetwork.com) - Russ Smith led with 14 points and 10 assists as the sixth-ranked Louisville Cardinals defeated the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, 79-63, in the Bill Minardi Classic at the KFC Yum! Center.
Smith was one of five Louisville (9-1) scorers in double digits. Mangok Mathiang had 13, Wayne Blackshear and Tim Henderson each contributed 12, and Chane Behanan had 11 coming off the bench.
"The great thing about this game was that it looked like it was going to be a low scoring game ... a possession kind of game, which is what they wanted," said Louisville head coach Rick Pitino. "But then, the second half was totally different and came into our favor with us hitting good shots, playing good defense and rebounding well."
Henderson scored all 12 of his points on 4-of-6 shooting from beyond the arc for the Cardinals, who are winners of four straight.
T.J. Price had a game-high 22 points to pace the Hilltoppers (5-4), who have lost two of their last three.
"Obviously, this was the defending national champion. I thought the first half we did some really good things. We dictated tempo. We did not rebound the basketball like we needed to, or we could have been up six or seven, but we didn't do that," said Western Kentucky head coach Ray Harper.
Louisville was without their second leading scorer, Chris Jones, due to a sprained wrist. After leading by only three at the break, the Cardinals dominated the second half.
Smith made a layup and Henderson hit an early 3-pointer to make it 36-28 Louisville. After Trency Jackson's triple, the Cardinals went on a 9-2 run that was highlighted by a Montrezl Harris dunk and a Smith 3 to make it a 45-33 game 4 1/2 minutes into the second half.
The Cardinals jumped out to a 66-46 lead after outscoring the Hilltoppers 16-2 over a six-minute span to all but put the game away.
George Fant grabbed a missed Jackson jumper and tipped it in for a 14-13 WKU lead nearly 10 minutes into the first half, though Blackshear hit back-to-back 3's late in the half to make it 31-28 for Louisville heading into halftime.
Jackson and Chris Harrison-Docks played in their first game for the Hilltoppers. Jackson transferred from Texas Tech, while Harrison-Docks transferred from Butler ... The Cardinals have won five straight and have a 27-18 advantage in games played in Louisville over Western Kentucky ... Louisville scored six fastbreak points, while Western Kentucky had none.