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Louisville survives upset scare

Feb 8, 2009 - 11:00 PM JAMAICA, New York (Ticker) -- Jerry Smith hit two 3-pointers during a key late run and finished with a season-high 21 points as seventh-ranked Louisville survived an upset scare to hold off St. John's, 60-47, on Sunday.

Frustrated all afternoon by the Red Storm's deliberate tempo, the Cardinals (18-4, 9-1 Big East) found themselves behind, 36-34, when St. John's D.J. Kennedy hit a layup with 10 minutes remaining.

However, Louisville held St. John's (12-11, 3-9) scoreless for nearly four minutes, and Smith's second 3-pointer gave the Cardinals a 43-36 cushion with 7:32 to play.

"Our guys just found a way to win against a team that played really hard, which they always do," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "I'm very pleased with the victory, with a lot of adversity our guys reacted in a very positive way."

While forward Terrence Williams was 0-for-7 from the field while playing with a sore wrist, he chipped in with seven rebounds and seven assists for the Cardinals, who played the entire second half without forward Samardo Samuels.

The freshman was hit in the face with an inadvertent elbow with 2 1/2 minutes left in the half, lost two teeth and was taken to a hospital.

However, despite shooting only 38.5 percent from the field (20-of-52), Louisville tied Marquette for second place in the rugged Big East. It is one-half game behind conference leader Connecticut, which handed the Cardinals their first conference loss, 68-51, on Monday.

"I was concerned because we weren't making shots," Pitino said. "Sometimes, when you aren't making shots you lose your confidence. But we went back door at the right time to give us easy buckets and that gave us a lift. That's what we keep preaching. When there are easy baskets to be had, go back door."

Louisville finished the contest with a 7-0 spurt in the final minute after Justin Burrell's dunk pulled the Red Storm within 53-47.

"There's enthusiasm in this program," St. Johns coach Norm Roberts said. "Anytime we play in the Garden, no matter who we play it's a special moment. We had an opportunity today and we didn't make the best of it."

Sean Evans scored 12 points to pace St. John's, which maintained a three-point halftime lead.

Smith scored all but two of his points in the second half, matching the Cardinals' entire total in the opening 20 minutes as they trailed, 22-19, at the intermission.

"Jerry did a great job of understanding how they were playing him defensively and decided to go back door," Pitino said. "He did things tonight for the first time that I was happy to see: getting on the floor athletically, getting in there and mixing it up rebounding-wise."

Struggling to score points in the last two games, the Cardinals relied heavily on their defense Sunday. The 47 points were the fewest they have allowed in a conference game this season.

The Cardinals held St. John's to 31 percent shooting (19-of-61) and also blocked 11 shots.