LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Kyle Kuric scored 19 points, including the game-clinching 3-pointer with just over 2 minutes remaining as No. 15 Louisville held off DePaul 61-57 on Saturday night.
Chris Smith and Terrence Jennings added 10 points each for the Cardinals (18-5, 7-3 Big East), who bounced back from a tough loss at No. 13 Georgetown on Monday despite playing without leading scorer Preston Knowles.
The senior guard watched from the bench in a sweatshirt and jeans after injuring his hamstring against the Hoyas. Kuric filled in capably, making several big shots, including a 3-pointer from the corner that put Louisville up 60-54 with 2:05 to go.
Brandon Young led the Blue Demons (6-16, 0-10) with 15 points and Cleveland Melvin added 12, but DePaul remained winless in conference play.
DePaul had its chances, leading by as much as nine in the first half and five in the second. Yet the Blue Demons struggled when the Cardinals turned up the defensive pressure and looked lost in crunch time.
Jimmy Drew hit a 3-pointer to pull DePaul to 60-57 with 1:24 to go and the Blue Demons got a stop when Jennings turned it over.
Young missed a 3-point attempt from the top of the key on DePaul's next possession. Jennings grabbed the rebound and was fouled, but clanked his first free throw.
DePaul took over for one last chance, but Drew tried to throw the ball off Siva as he lost his balance. Siva moved just enough to avoid the ball then fell on the floor and grabbed it. He sank the first free throw to provide the final margin.
Siva had a nightmarish night from the floor, missing all eight of his field goal attempts, but made six free throws and tied a career high with 10 assists. Louisville compensated for playing without its captain by trying to look for open shots, finishing with 17 assists on 21 field goals.
Louisville coach Rick Pitino called the game "dangerous" for the Cardinals because Knowles' injury forced him to experiment with his lineup.
At times, the experiments fizzled. The Cardinals turned it over three times in the opening 2 minutes, and in an effort to give Siva a breather before a media timeout, Pitino played freshman walk-on Tim Henderson and freshman Russ Smith at the same time.
The scattershot approach hurt Louisville on defense, as the Blue Demons rode some uncharacteristically hot shooting to a nine-point lead. DePaul, which entered the game averaging four 3-pointers a game, knocked down five in the first half alone.
Yet the Cardinals collected themselves enough to end the half with an 11-2 burst to tie the game at 34. DePaul moved back in front 43-38 early in the second half but the Cardinals dialed up the intensity.
DePaul made just one field goal over a six-minute stretch that allowed Louisville to edge back in front for good and remain in the thick of the Big East race.