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MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Eddie Jordan's first season at Rutgers finally is over, and fifth-ranked Louisville gave his Scarlet Knights a last reminder of how much work they face building the Big Ten-bound program.
Rutgers not only had its worst scoring performance of the season but since 1982 in being routed 92-31 by Louisville on Thursday in the quarterfinals of the American Athletic Conference tournament.
"They've been to the top of the mountain, and we're starting from the bottom of the mountain," Jordan said. "We want to get to where they are. It's going to be a process for us, and it has been a process for us. I thought our guys had a lot of character, and we just need to know how hard we have to work to get to where we want to go."
Rutgers (12-21) scored only 29 points in a 30-29 loss Jan. 25, at St. Bonaventure in 1982. The Scarlet Knights did lead once — at 7-6 — as they hit their first three shots. But they wound up with far more turnovers (17) than made shots (seven) in the first half.
Louisville's bench wound up outscoring Rutgers as a whole 32-31 after the Cardinals finished the first half with a 52-9 run.
"Nothing worked," Jordan said.
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.
"I'm not really sure what to say," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "It was just one of those nights where everything went really well for us, and nothing went right for them.
The defending national champion Cardinals will play Houston, which upset No. 25 SMU 68-64, in the semifinals.
Chris Jones scored 15 of his 18 points in the first half for Louisville a day after visiting the grave of his stepbrother, who was killed March 1 when the Cardinals lost in Memphis. Jones said he thinks all his emotions came out with that visit.
"His death was not a good thing, but it frees my intensity right now," Jones said. "So, that's why I'm playing harder, and that's why I'm playing way better too."
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 also is one and done in the American. 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.
"They pay no attention to an opponent's record or how an opponent's playing," Pitino said. "They respect everyone, and that's a great quality to have."
Myles Mack led Rutgers with eight points. 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. The Cardinals widened their lead from there 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.
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.