Louisville dominates Cincinnati, snaps three-game skid

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Taquan Dean crossed midcourt and screamed. And for the first time in two weeks, it wasn't in pain.

Sure the sprained left ankle that kept him out of all but 12 minutes of Louisville's last five games hurt, but after knocking down his third straight 3-pointer early in the second half of a 67-50 win over Cincinnati on Wednesday night, it was time to celebrate.

"This is my last year, I don't want to play in the NIT and not even make the Big East tournament," said Dean, who finished with 16 points as the Cardinals (No. 23 ESPN/USA Today, No. 22 AP) snapped a three-game losing streak. "We have to go full throttle."

Louisville (14-5, 2-4) never trailed against its former Conference USA rival, forcing 25 turnovers to breathe some life into its once-foundering season.

"We had to have this one," coach Rick Pitino said after the Cardinals got their first Big East home win. "Now we have to sweep the board at home and pull an upset on the road."

Louisville forward Juan Palacios had 19 points and 12 rebounds for his first double-double of the season and the Cardinals frustrated the Bearcats (14-6, 3-3) with an array of defenses.

Louisville would press one possession, play man-to-man the next and then switch to a zone. Each one seemed to leave the Bearcats tentative or confused. Cincinnati's 25 turnovers were four more than the Bearcats had in their last three games combined.

"I hate to use the word fear, but they sensed it and took us right out of it," Cincinnati coach Andy Kennedy said. "It's very uncharacteristic of our team."

Dean didn't start but entered the game three minutes in wearing a heavy black brace on his left ankle, which he injured in a win over Providence on Jan. 7.

After some early sluggishness, he drilled a 3-pointer that gave the Cardinals a 13-point lead. But it was a two-minute stretch early in the second half that let his teammates know their captain and unquestioned leader was back.

The Bearcats had cut a 14-point halftime deficit to nine with 16 minutes to play when Dean took over. He knocked down three 3-pointers, all from the top of the key, to give Louisville a 50-30 lead.

Eric Hicks had 15 points and tied a career-high with 17 rebounds for the Bearcats, who looked very much like a team playing its third game in six days.

"We knock it down to seven and we're right there, and then with the shot clock running down the best player in the gym makes a 3," Kennedy said. "If it hadn't been for Eric, it would have been even uglier than it was, if that's possible."

The Cardinals built an 18-point lead in the first half as the Bearcats struggled to hold onto the ball. Cincinnati turned it over 10 times in the game's first 10 minutes.

"We didn't come to play, we got what we deserved," Cincinnati guard Devan Downey said. "We threw it all over the gym. It wasn't one person. I wasn't there mentally."

When the Bearcats could get a shot off, they couldn't get it to go in. Cincinnati shot just 27 percent from the field in the first half. Despite grabbing 11 offensive rebounds in the first half, the Bearcats were unable to translate the extra chances into extra points.

After shooting a woeful 2-of-20 from 3-point range in a loss to No. 1 Connecticut on Saturday, Dean's return helped the Cardinals knock down five 3-pointers in the first half. Louisville finished 10-of-26 from behind the line.

Palacios, who struggled in Louisville's five previous conference games averaging 8.2 points and 4.8 rebounds, scored 11 points in the first half, playing with the kind of aggressiveness he's lacked for long stretches this season.

Other than Hicks, the Bearcats seemed lifeless. While he was 6-of-11 from the field, the rest of the team went 12-of-49.

"We didn't do nothing," Hicks said. "I didn't think we'd come out and play like this. We got smacked. ... We don't have depth. It's just a bad situation. We all need to play hard. I don't know why we need to play this way."

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