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Saturday, November 19, 2011
Rapid Reax: Louisville 69, Butler 53

By Eamonn Brennan


INDIANAPOLIS -- A quick look at Louisville's 69-53 win over Butler at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Saturday:

How it happened: Butler controlled the pace of the game in the first half and got hot shooting from guard Chase Stigall; Louisville trailed until the late moments of the first half and held a narrow 29-28 lead at the buzzer. But the game opened almost immediately in the second, as the Cardinals locked down Stigall, kept Andrew Smith from getting touches in the post and found their offense on the other end. Kyle Kuric's shooting was the key to opening the lead -- his back-to-back field goals (one a 3, one a long 2) opened Louisville's lead to 11 with 6:14 left in the second half. Rick Pitino's team never looked back.

Star of the game: Kuric's shooting wasn't just timely -- it was also consistent. The sharpshooter made 7 of his 11 field goal attempts, finishing with 17 points, six rebounds and three assists.

Honorable mention: Butler forward Khyle Marshall flashed the versatile game that caused many preseason prognosticators (yours truly included) to consider him a potential breakout star for the Bulldogs. Marshall mixed 18-foot jumpers with silky left-handed dives to the rim -- where he frequently avoided impressive shot-blocking efforts from Louisville center Gorgui Dieng -- and finished with 20 points (8-of-13 shooting) and six rebounds. Marshall has started slowly this season, but this game should raise some eyebrows.

What it means: Butler is and will remain a young, developing team. There are talented new pieces here -- Marshall and Smith are being called upon to provide much bigger roles, and little-used guard Chrishawn Hopkins is getting major minutes alongside veteran point guard Ronald Nored. This team should gel and improve over the course of the season, but that improvement will take time.

For Louisville, the win is a promising sign of things to come. The Cardinals are without their starting point guard Peyton Siva, whom Pitino has called his best player, and are using a combination of Russ Smith and walk-on Elisha Justice to fill the role. Meanwhile, Mike Marra is out for the season and freshman forward Wayne Blackshear is set to miss significant time before any potential return. Even so, Pitino's banged-up team entered a tough environment -- Butler's storied Hinkle Fieldhouse was packed and rocking Saturday -- against an intelligent, well-coached team, and came away with a 16-point win. Impressive.