LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Preston Knowles scored a career-high 31 points as No. 22 Louisville routed Morgan State 104-74 in its final tuneup before a showdown with rival Kentucky on Friday.
Kyle Kuric added 25 points and the Cardinals (11-1) had little trouble with the Bears. Louisville shot 59 percent from the field and forced 26 turnovers to easily win its third straight. The Cardinals, who scored 114 points in a win over Western Kentucky last week, stayed hot. Louisville made 17 of 23 3-pointers (74 percent) while topping the 100-point barrier for the third time this season.
DeWayne Jackson led Morgan State (4-5) with 22 points but the Bears were never in it. The Cardinals needed just five minutes to build a double-digit lead and cruise to its fourth victory by at least 30 points.
Terrance Jennings added 15 points while Chris Smith had 10 for Louisville. The Cardinals continued to share the ball, finishing with 25 assists on 35 field goals, a trait coach Rick Pitino said has been key to his team’s surprisingly strong start.
Louisville went out of its way to make sure the Bears could get out of wintry Baltimore in time to make the game, arranging for a charter flight after Morgan State’s commercial flight was canceled.
Considering the way the defending MEAC champions played in the first half, maybe they should have stayed at home.
The Cardinals jumped on the Bears early, with Kuric knocking down three early 3-pointers in the opening minutes.
Morgan State, meanwhile, struggled holding onto the ball. It wasn’t just Louisville’s defense. Even when there were no Cardinals in the general area the Bears would throw it away, step on the sideline or dribble into trouble.
The Cardinals wasted little time taking advantage, getting another balanced effort. When Kuric slowed down, though he did add an impressive one-handed tip-dunk to his five 3-pointers, Knowles heated up.
He drilled three 3-pointers in the half, the last of which came a good two steps behind the line. The shot gave Louisville a 58-28 lead at the break. Knowles raised his arms as the ball fell through the hoop then raced to the locker room while the capacity crowd officially moved on to thinking the annual game against the Wildcats on New Year’s Eve.
The “Beat UK” chants started in the final minutes, though Pitino continued to play Knowles and Kuric late into the game to keep the intensity level up. It almost worked too well, the only drama in the second half coming with just over a minute to play when Morgan State’s Justin Black shoved Smith to the ground while Smith raced down the floor for a layup.
Smith angrily pulled himself up off the floor before being held back by teammates, though the brief skirmish gave Smith a glimpse of what awaits when the Wildcats visit the KFC Yum! Center at the end of the week.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)