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LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Facing its second Top 10 opponent this season, a young Cornell team was overwhelmed at the start by No. 3 Louisville.
The Cardinals scored 20 straight points early in the game and the defending NCAA champions routed winless Cornell 99-54 Friday night for their school-record 19th victory in a row.
Cornell (0-4) has lost 10 in a row dating to a Feb. 16 win at Brown.
"You're going against the best teams in America, so you kind of get a barometer of where you may be as a program and where you'll be as a group," Cornell coach Bill Courtney said. "Our team is so young and we're still trying to figure ourselves out."
Sophomore Nolan Cressler led the Big Red with 10 points and eight rebounds. Senior Dwight Tarwater had nine points, all on 3-pointers.
The Big Red, with two freshmen and a sophomore in its starting lineup, gave then No. 8 Syracuse a test in its season opener. Cornell led by as many as 14 early and were up 38-32 at halftime before falling 82-60.
It was a different story against Louisville (3-0) as the Cardinals dominated from the tip and led 53-14 at halftime.
Courtney substituted often and rotated among 15 players in the first half. He had a chance to gauge some of the his many sophomores, including 6-11 center Braxston Bunce and guard Robert Mischler, who had six points.
"I just wanted to find some guys that were going to compete," Courtney said. "We got down in a hole so early and I thought it was a lack of competitiveness in our group. I wanted to find somebody that would light a little bit of a fire under us and give us a spark."
Cornell started out well when David Onuorah's dunk tied it at 2, but the Big Red's momentum ended there. Louisville went on a 20-0 run in just more than six minutes and extended its comfortable lead.
Cornell couldn't establish its offense from the start. The Big Red shot 16 percent (5 of 32) from the field and 2 of 14 from beyond the arc in the first half.
Even what looked like easy baskets for the Big Red didn't come through. With Louisville up 67-20, it appeared Onuorah was in line for a quick layup after he broke free from the Louisville press, but 6-10 center Mangok Mathiang stuffed the attempt.
"They've been jumping on teams with their 3-point shot and we didn't want to give that up," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "So our guys were well prepared to go against them and didn't take them lightly at all."
Freshman JoJo Fallas, playing in his second game, faced the toughest test of his young career in defending star guard Russ Smith.
Smith had 10 points for Louisville.
"JoJo was really probably the calming influence in the first half," Courtney said. "He was the only one who could get us in the offense. He's a guy that works hard every day and I thought he did a good job."
Cornell picked up the pace in the second half and shot 42 percent from the field, but the deficit was too much to overcome.
Kevin Ware scored quickly in his return for Louisville. He shattered his leg during last season's Midwest Regional final, played in an exhibition and then sat out the first two games.
Ware had five points and two rebounds in 13 minutes. He scored just 17 seconds after checking in with 14:06 left in the first half, splitting defenders on a drive to cap the 20-point run.
Wayne Blackshear led the Cardinals (3-0) with 20 points, hitting 4 of 5 3-pointers. Chane Behanan added 13 points and 12 rebounds.
A problem with the lights at the KFC Yum! Center caused a 15-minute delay prior to the start of the game. After that, it was all Louisville.