LOUISVILLE , Ky. -- Terrence Williams' right wrist is just fine. So is No. 7 Louisville now that its senior leader is back.
Williams shook off a sprained wrist that slowed him down the last three games to finish with 17 points, eight assists and six rebounds as the Cardinals raced past Providence, 94-76, on Wednesday night.
"I'm back in the groove," Williams said. "I feel good. They told me 'If your wrist didn't hurt, don't wear any tape.' Well, you saw I didn't wear any tape."
He hardly looked like he needed it while leading Louisville's suddenly high-scoring offense. After slogging through a funk in which they lost two of three games while averaging just 56 points, the Cardinals have averaged 96.5 points while getting two easy victories.
Edgar Sosa led Louisville (20-5, 11-2 Big East) with 18 points, Samardo Samuels added 17 and Earl Clark had 13 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. The win moved the Cardinals into a three-way tie for second place in the conference with Pittsburgh and Marquette behind Connecticut.
"Besides almost having an aneurism at halftime it was a pretty good game," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "You have to make them play defense, take your time and get the offensive glass."
Providence (16-10, 8-6) was hoping to put a signature win on its NCAA tournament resume, but had no answer in the second half. Jonathan Kale, Sharaud Curry and Weyinmi Efejuku had 15 points each for the Friars, who couldn't sustain the torrid shooting that carried them to a slim halftime lead.
"For 20 minutes we played like we had a chance," Davis said. "We play a very uptempo style. Certain games we wear out our opponents. I think they wore us out."
Pitino, who coached the Friars to the Final Four in 1987, improved to 4-0 all-time against his former team.
More than 20 years later he has another team with Final Four aspirations, though one that needed a little dose of reality after a 33-point loss to Notre Dame last week. Pitino emptied the locker room of all practice gear with "Louisville" on it after the loss, forcing the Cardinals to play in nondescript gym shorts and shirts.
Louisville responded with a 45-point win over DePaul on Sunday and followed it up with another solid performance. The Cardinals held Providence to 30 percent (9 of 30) shooting in the second half and forced 22 turnovers.
"When they're on, that's the best team in the country when they're on," Providence coach Keno Davis said. "When he gets them going and playing hard, I don't see how there is any better team."
Maybe, but the performance wasn't quite enough for the Cardinals to get their shiny practice gear back. That will have to wait until they win a road game according to Pitino, but it was more than enough to put the Notre Dame debacle firmly in the rearview mirror.
Williams, as he's done all season when the Cardinals need it, led the way. He was so bothered by the wrist injury against DePaul on Sunday he didn't take a shot. It took him awhile to warm up against the Friars, he didn't take his first jumper until less than 6 minutes were left in the first half, but he finished 7-for-11.
Providence led 53-50 early in the second half when Louisville put together a 22-3 run in which it held the Friars without a field goal for more than 9 minutes.
Louisville had been reluctant to trap in the first half, afraid of Providence's experienced ballhandlers. Pitino went back to the press in the second half and it worked beautifully. Getting deflections and steals, the Cardinals were able to get on the break and quickly pull away.
"We just got up in them and played tough man-to-man defense," Williams said. "We didn't want to lose."
The Cardinals were so relentless during the run even Davis seemed to get rattled. He received a technical foul after frantically trying to call a timeout while Curry was trapped at halfcourt. When referee Jim Burr finally granted it, Davis appeared to say something to Burr, who then signaled the technical.
Jerry Smith made both free throws to push the lead to 63-53. Kale finally ended the run with a free throw, but Williams hit a jumper and Smith knocked down a 3-pointer as the Friars continued to struggle at the other end.
Kale picked up a technical when he slapped the backboard after a dunk, one of the few times the Friars showed any fight in the second half.
"We just looked at each other's eyes and strapped it up," Louisville guard Andre McGee said. "It was a total team effort. We don't want anybody shooting that way against us."
Few teams shoot the ball as well as the Friars did in the first half. Providence shot a remarkable 75 percent (18-of-24) from the field, consistently pump faking their way past the Cardinals.
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