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LOUISVILLE, Ky. – When Russ Smith starts off in that offensive zone early, chances are it's going to be a good night for him and Louisville.
It got even better when his Cardinal teammates joined the fun later on.
Smith scored 21 of his game-high 30 points in the first half and No. 3 Louisville made 12 3-pointers to set the tone for a 97-69 rout of Hofstra on Tuesday night.
Louisville's victory in the first of four games in the Hall of Fame Tipoff tournament was its 18th straight dating to last season, tying a school record.
Smith shot 12 of 22 from the field including 5 of 12 from beyond the arc to finish one point shy of his career high set twice in last season's national title run.
"I was able to raise up and get a pretty good look at the basket," the senior guard said. "It was just one of them games; a lot of guys on our team are capable of having games like this."
Wayne Blackshear made three straight 3s that helped Louisville break the game open with a 26-2 second-half run. Luke Hancock returned from a left Achilles injury to hit a couple from long range as well as the Cardinals finished 12 of 31 from deep.
Louisville (2-0) shot 35 of 68 overall (51.5 percent), a big improvement from its 38-percent effort in a season-opening win over the College of Charleston.
Chris Jones added 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting with seven assists for Louisville, while Montrezl Harrell had 19.
"To play at this pace and not have a turnover is really a remarkable performance," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said of Jones.
The Cardinals forced 22 turnovers leading to 32 points and dominated the paint 44-16.
Louisville survived some nervous moments early in the second half as Jamall Robinson made three from beyond the arc, Dion Nesmith added seven points, including a 3, and Jordan Allen scored on a putback during an 18-8 run that brought Hofstra within 54-49 with 15:35 left in the game.
Just as quickly after a timeout, Louisville turned it into an 80-51 lead over the next 7-plus minutes with help from Blackshear, who got in on the act from outside after missing both 3-point attempts in the first half. Smith added seven points during the run.
"It was more so just kind of putting the foot back on the gas pedal," Smith said of the run. "They hit three (consecutive) 3s. Every team is going to make their run. We knew our run was coming, just stick with what we were doing."
Nesmith's 24 points led Hofstra (1-2), which hit 14 of 25 from 3-point range but still ended up being routed.
"We thought we had a chance to win the game," Nesmith said. "Coach Pitino called a timeout and jumped on his guys. They came out really ready to play. They jumped on us, and they kind of got us on our heels."
Louisville's night began with the unveiling of a banner adding Pitino to the school's list of Naismith Memorial Hall of Famers. On Saturday, a banner recognizing Louisville's 2012-13 NCAA championship was unfurled.
This time, Louisville responded with the improvement their coach sought after Saturday's 70-48 victory over the College of Charleston that was close until the Cardinals closed with a 22-3 run. The Cardinals forced 21 turnovers in that game but barely won the rebounding battle and were outshot percentage-wise by the Cougars.
Hofstra outrebounded Louisville 35-34, but the Cardinals grabbed 13 offensive rebounds and converted 17 second-chance points.
Having a couple of regulars back helped Louisville.
Besides Hancock, Louisville welcomed back junior forward Chane Behanan, whom Pitino reinstated on Monday after an indefinite suspension that lasted 26 days from when it was announced on Oct. 17.
Cardinals fans only had to wait 3:45 to greet Hancock, the Final Four MVP, with cheers of "Luuuke!" as he checked in.
"It felt great, 100 percent," Hancock said. "Felt good. Just trying to play hard and play defense. I felt good about them playing mostly zone so I was going to be able contribute and help out. I was really trying to help out on defense, trying to do the little things."
Behanan came in with 12:09 remaining in the half to cheers as well, putting the defending champions close to full strength.
Junior guard Kevin Ware missed his second straight game after returning last week from last spring's gruesome right leg injury to play 10 minutes in an exhibition win over Pikeville but is expected to be out for several games.
Hancock and Behanan were witnesses to Smith's hot perimeter shooting with help from Jones, the junior college transfer. The backcourt duo accounted for Louisville's first 20 points and five assists as Smith made four of his first seven from long range while Jones added six points as the Cardinals led by 10.