LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Preston Knowles scored 25 points, Kyle Kuric added 20 and No. 19 Louisville continued its torrid shooting in an easy 88-63 victory over St. John's on Wednesday night.
Peyton Siva bounced back after being benched in a win over Marquette last Saturday to score 10 points and hand out a career-high 10 assists as the Cardinals (15-3, 4-1 Big East) dealt the Red Storm (11-6, 4-3) their worst loss of the season.
The Cardinals shot 53 percent (33 of 62) from the field and made 12 3-pointers despite playing without center Terrence Jennings, who missed the game with a hip injury.
Paris Horne led St. John's with 13 points, but the Red Storm turned it over a season-high 25 times and couldn't keep up when Louisville pushed the pace.
Four days after a stunning rally from an 18-point deficit in the final 5:44 against the Golden Eagles, Louisville made sure no such heroics were necessary against the Red Storm.
The Cardinals broke it open with a 19-2 run midway through the first half. Louisville's small lineup and full-court pressure flummoxed the Red Storm, who struggled dealing with the sea of hands in the passing lanes.
Louisville held St. John's without a basket for more than 7 minutes during the burst, often the Red Storm couldn't even get a shot off before throwing it away. One St. John's pass sailed over Louisville coach Rick Pitino's head and into the third row of seats while another rolled innocently past two Red Storm players and out of bounds.
The Cardinals had no such issues. If centers Gorgui Dieng or George Goode weren't stepping out and making jumpers from the corners, then Kuric was knocking down 3-pointers or Stephan Van Treese was getting free for a layup.
Louisville made 15 of its first 19 shots as the lead ballooned to 40-19. The Red Storm briefly collected themselves after Knowles went to the bench with two fouls, closing within 44-31 at halftime.
Knowles returned to start the second half and promptly drilled a 3-pointer as the Cardinals stayed hot. A 13-point lead quickly grew to 25 as Louisville poured it on.
Siva, who watched the Marquette rally from the sidelines after Pitino grew frustrated with his erratic play, appeared not to be fazed by the benching. He was dazzling in the open court, finding streaking teammates for layups or alley-oops.
His most spectacular play came when he threw his 5-foot-11 frame into the lane in pursuit of an offensive rebound and tipped a pass to Goode, who threw down a one-handed dunk that put Louisville up 77-52.
Siva raised his arms as he raced back down court as the Cardinals, picked to finish eighth in the Big East the preseason, continued their surprising start.
Pitino, who improved to 587-213 in his 800th game as a college coach, raised some eyebrows in the preseason when he picked the Red Storm to win the conference behind first-year coach Steve Lavin. While St. John's is markedly improved, it's the Cardinals who are turning heads.
Pitino broke the grueling 18-game Big East schedule into six three-game segments, with the hope his team would go 2-1 in each. The Cardinals hit that mark in their first three games and are 2-0 in segment two, which continues on Saturday at Providence.