Sosa has 16 as Louisville shuts down South Florida

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Coach Rick Pitino turned to guards Andre McGee and Preston Knowles after watching the Cardinals slog their way through a sleepy start against South Florida and barked, "Run the offense better!"

Pitino's dynamic duo -- and the rest of the seventh-ranked Cardinals -- were listening.

Edgar Sosa scored 16 points, Samardo Samuels had 14 and Earl Clark added 12 points and seven rebounds as Louisville raced by the Bulls 80-54 on Wednesday night for its eighth straight win.

"The offense is really starting to come," Knowles said. "We feed off of our defense, but when you can hit open jumpers or throw the ball inside, it opens up for everybody. You can just see it, we're playing together, coming together as a group."

Terrence Williams had five points, 10 rebounds and six assists as the Cardinals (16-3, 7-0 Big East) kept pace with No. 8 Marquette atop the nation's toughest conference.

"The second half was more like we've been playing," Pitino said. "We fell into the trap of not taking good shots. We had to have a good start to the second half and Preston and Andre got us off to a good fast start."

The Cardinals needed one after leading just 33-32 at the break.

Samuels got the Cardinals going with back-to-back dunks -- the first off a terrific feed from McGee -- to start a 22-3 run that quickly buried the Bulls.

Louisville used its press to force 21 turnovers and had little trouble getting on the break as the Cardinals played with the kind of offensive efficiency Pitino said would eventually come if they started sharing the ball.

"Our main objective is always to get the ball inside," Knowles said. "It opened up the outside and Samardo was making good passes out of the post and we were getting everybody involved."

Louisville had 21 assists on 31 baskets, a few of them bordering on the spectacular. Williams threaded a bounce past between his legs at full speed to a sprinting Clark, who dunked it.

Dominique Jones led the Bulls with 19 points and seven rebounds and Jesus Verdejo had 10 points, but South Florida (7-14, 2-6) simply couldn't keep up.

"They wore us down in the second half," said South Florida coach Stan Heath. "They really got to us. Once they got the snowball rolling, it really blew up. The threes started falling and it was time for us to go home."

The Cardinals knocked down five 3-pointers in a 3-minute stretch to send the Bulls on their way. Sosa made three during the run, including a shot from the corner that hit the rim, bounced a good five feet up then dropped into the basket as Sosa pumped his arms in celebration. Sosa hit four of six 3-pointers, the most he's hit in a single game in more than a year.

"I've been staying after practice shooting," Sosa said. "Just because I have a horrible [shooting] percentage doesn't mean I'm a horrible shooter. I know I can shoot."

Even reserve forward Will Scott, who'd been accepted to study at Oxford University next year earlier in the day, got in on the act. The sharpshooter knocked down a 3-pointer that gave the Cardinals 65-41 lead, Scott's first basket in three weeks.

The lead eventually ballooned to 30, letting Louisville enjoy the final few minutes of a game for a change after a series of tight battles against ranked teams.

With things well in hand in the final minute, Williams stood up on the sidelines and led the student section in a chant urging Pitino to put in sophomore guard Lee Steiden, who hadn't played all season.

Pitino obliged as the crowd roared, though Steiden did miss his only shot.

Not that it mattered, by then the Cardinals were well on their way to staying perfect in the Big East. Louisville hosts West Virginia on Saturday before a showdown with No. 2 Connecticut next Monday.

Yet Pitino made sure his team wasn't caught looking ahead.

"I put on the board, 'Play humble, stay hungry and just play for the next game," Pitino said. "Don't answer any questions about seedings. Don't answer any questions about the tournament. Just answer questions related to the next game."

Louisville's 800th game at Freedom Hall ended like most of the 799 before it. The Cardinals improved to 664-136 all-time at the venerable arena, where they've played for 54 seasons.


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