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LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Referees looked at the replay shortly after Chris Jones hit what appeared to be Louisville's third straight 3-pointer to start the game and ruled that his foot was on the line.
That counted as a bright spot for Rutgers as the No. 13 Cardinals routed the Scarlet Knights 102-54 on Sunday night.
While the early shot from Jones was changed to two points, Louisville (21-4, 10-2 American Athletic Conference) still made a season-high 16 of 30 from behind the arc. The 48-point win was its largest of the season.
"Today was just one of those days where they really didn't miss and we really didn't hit a shot," Rutgers junior guard Myles Mack said. "It was hard for us to even get back in the game after they went out on a lead."
Rutgers (10-16, 4-9) trailed throughout in its worst outing of the season, but first-year coach Eddie Jordan's message to his team was not to let the loss linger.
"It's one loss and our guys have to believe that," Jordan said. "This loss cannot devastate you; we still have a goal in mind that's reachable."
Rutgers' goal is finishing sixth in the AAC standings and earning a first-round bye in next month's conference tournament in Memphis. Rutgers currently sits seventh, a half-game behind Houston.
The Scarlet Knights won't have long to dwell on being drubbed by Louisville. They host No. 20 Memphis on Thursday, their third straight ranked opponent, including Friday's 77-65 home loss to No. 23 SMU. The Tigers handed Rutgers a 101-69 defeat on Feb. 4, its most lopsided loss before Sunday.
"We need to play with more confidence and stay together," Jordan said. "They (Memphis) are going to pressure you. They are going to body you up. They are going to be physical like they were down there. We have to answer the bell physically and intelligently."
Luke Hancock scored a career-high 25 points, including six 3-pointers, to key the Louisville rout and complete a season sweep of the Scarlet Knights. Freshman guard Terry Rozier added a career-high 16 points, hitting four 3s.
The Cardinals' last scheduled conference game against Rutgers ended with them dominating on the boards (39-24) while forcing 18 turnovers that led to 23 points. The Scarlet Knights shot just 35 percent in falling to 1-13 against Louisville.
Kadeem Jack and Myles Mack each scored 10 points for Rutgers, which is headed to the Big Ten next season while Louisville goes to the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Despite entering with a split of its past four games, including a 23-point rout of Houston, Rutgers faced a huge hurdle against the third of four ranked opponents in a five-game stretch. Louisville came in leading the nation in scoring margin (20.1) and had won its last three by an average of nearly 19 points.
But unlike last month's meeting in New Jersey that Louisville won 83-76 by making 41 of 46 free throws, the Cardinals did their damage from beyond the arc this time, with Hancock and Rozier thriving in particular.
Smith and Hancock started it off by hitting from long range. Jones followed with a perimeter jumper that was initially ruled a 3 before a replay review showed his foot was on the line. But that hardly bothered the Cardinals, who just kept firing from outside en route to a 43-24 halftime lead.
A game that was already a rout at the break quickly became a laugher as Louisville made its first five 3-pointers in the second half, with Hancock hitting back-to-back shots to make it 64-27. With no answers for Louisville's onslaught, Rutgers could only watch as the Cardinals' lead reached 48 points with 31 seconds left.
The Scarlet Knights had already begun moving on at that point.
"We just have to learn from the mistakes we made today and just move forward," Mack said. "If we look back, it's just going to affect us. If we just look forward and look at the film and learn from it, I think we should be in decent shape."