LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Rick Pitino graciously acknowledged the latest milestone in his Hall of Fame career with the hope his Louisville Cardinals grow from the tougher-than-expected win that required overcoming some deficiencies.
Quentin Snider scored 15 points, V.J. King added 13 and No. 11 Louisville overcame a cold shooting start to beat Texas Southern 102-71 on Saturday and give Pitino his 400th victory as the Cardinals’ coach.
Pitino, who last month earned his 750th career college victory, improved to 400-163 in his 16th season with Louisville. His Cardinals (9-1) first had to shake off early sluggishness and a 4-for-21 start from the field to pull away from the scrappy, athletic Tigers and win their fourth in a row.
They also had to overcome a rebounding clinic conducted by Texas Southern’s Derrick Griffin, who grabbed 26 of his team’s 49 boards to establish as NCAA Division I high for this season. His performance included 15 offensive rebounds that helped the Tigers make things tense for 25 minutes before Louisville slowly pulled away.
“Well, congratulations to Derrick Griffin because that was an amazing rebounding performance,” said Pitino, whose team edged the Tigers by two rebounds overall. “Happy with the victory, but when you can learn lessons in victory rather than defeat, like the Baylor game, it helps you a lot. … It was good tonight because those guys got taken to the woodshed on the glass, and they’ll learn a valuable lesson.”
Louisville made 30 of its final 57 shots (53 percent) to finish at 44 percent from the field overall while holding TSU (4-5) to 35 percent. Snider’s first double-figure game scoring in four contests set the tone followed by five teammates.
Donovan Mitchell had 12 points, Jaylen Johnson and Deng Adel 11 each and Mangok Mathiang 10 for Louisville.
Freshman point guard Demontrae Jefferson debuted with 27 points for Texas Southern, which lost its fourth straight. Dulani Robinson added 16 points and Griffin had 15 for the Tigers.
Griffin didn’t seem fazed by his rebounding performance.
“Playing defense was key,” said the 6-foot-7 sophomore, last season’s Southwestern Athletic Conference Player of the Year and this year’s preseason choice. “That’s what we focus on, and our offense comes from our defense.”
THE BIG PICTURE
Texas Southern: The 5-7 Jefferson entered as a four-star prospect and with just one practice but delivered on high expectations with strong court leadership and 10 first-half points. Griffin helped the Tigers stay close on the boards with Louisville but had no bench to keep up with the Cardinals, being shut out 21-0 in the first half and outscored 43-8 overall.
“They’re just so physical,” coach Mike Davis said of Louisville. “Because of that, a turnover here, a missed shot there would’ve been different but it would’ve been hard for us to sustain our play for 40 minutes.”
Louisville: Three days after thriving against Southern Illinois, the Cardinals’ frontcourt struggled early against TSU as Mathiang and Ray Spalding each picked up two fouls. Fortunately for Louisville, Snider picked things up while Adel and King added timely baskets.
Louisville: The Cardinals have had a good week with lopsided wins that should keep them near the top 10.
Texas Southern won’t debut at home until Jan. 14 against Grambling and their next four games are at No. 22 Cincinnati, LSU, TCU and No. 4 Baylor, which handed Louisville its first loss last month. Davis said he created the challenging road docket to prepare his team for league play and hopefully win a third straight SWAC regular season title.
“We’re not focused on the outcome right now. we’re focused on the outcome in March,” he said. “I’d rather show them a great hotel, eat really well, play in a game they’ll be able to see on TV one day with the family than to play a home game in front of a few hundred people and it cost us money. If they understand the challenges now, it’ll help them in the real world.”
Texas Southern: The Tigers’ stretch of 16 road games to open the season continues Tuesday at No. 22 Cincinnati.
Louisville: Hosts Eastern Kentucky on Dec. 17. Pitino reunites with second-year Colonels coach Dan McHale, who was a Cardinals staff assistant and former video director.
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