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No. 4 Louisville keeps rolling with win over Western Kentucky

Dec 24, 2011 - 5:32 AM Louisville, KY (Sports Network) - Russ Smith scored 13 of his 23 points during a big second-half run, as fourth-ranked Louisville remained unbeaten with a 70-60 triumph over Western Kentucky.

Kyle Kuric tallied 15 points, while Gorgui Dieng ended with 13 points and 15 rebounds for the Cardinals (12-0), who are off to their best start since the 1974-75 team began the season 13-0.

Louisville was behind by eight points with under 12 minutes left, but then embarked on a 22-3 run with Smith doing most of the damage.

"He is winning us games on just pure intensity and pure heart and he is the reason we are winning," Cardinals coach Rick Pitino said. "We have got to get the rest of those guys playing like that."

Jamal Crook and Derrick Gordon both had 13 points for the Hilltoppers (4-9), who suffered their third straight loss.

"I think we played really hard. We had a couple of lapses, which is going to happen, but we made big plays and it was fun watching the guys out there playing hard and listening to what we were trying to accomplish," WKU coach Ken McDonald said. "I think even with the loss we made some big strides tonight."

Louisville, which had a 37-34 edge at the break, was held scoreless for the first 5:32 of the second half. WKU built its lead to 47-39 with just over 12 minutes remaining following a George Fant layup.

But the Cardinals went on a tear. Smith's floating jumper had the hosts within 48-47 with 9 1/2 minutes to go before Crook's layup stemmed the tide for a moment.

The Cardinals then scored the ensuing 14 points. Smith's three-ball gave them the lead at 52-50 inside seven minutes, and he followed with a layup.

With nearly 5 1/2 minutes remaining, Peyton Siva saved the ball from going out of bounds on the sideline. That started a fastbreak, ending on a goaltending call. It resulted in a three-point play for Kuric, moving the margin to 57-50.

Dieng finished the 14-0 run with a layup, but the Hilltoppers made a late rally. A three from Nigel Snipes from the right wing with 1:10 left cut the deficit to 61-57, but Western Kentucky was forced to foul and the Cardinals capitalized from the charity stripe to remain unbeaten. Chris Smith sank five free throws down the stretch.

WKU's 22-9 lead midway through the first half marked Louisville's biggest deficit of the season. After WKU took a 30-19 lead with 6:35 left in the first half, the Cardinals outscored the Hilltoppers 18-4 over the final 5:46.

Game Notes

Louisville improved to 13-1 all-time in the Billy Minardi Classic. Minardi, who died in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, was the brother-in-law of Pitino...Friday was the first time WKU had faced a top-five opponent since the Cardinals came into a November 30, 2008, game against the Hilltoppers in Nashville ranked No. 3. The Hilltoppers earned a 68-54 upset win in that game...They were trying for their first road win against a ranked opponent since beating No. 4 Kentucky in Lexington on November 15, 2001...Louisville has won 20 in a row at home.

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