No. 8 Louisville vs. Cincinnati final score: Cardinals pull away in second half

Andy Lyons

Louisville struggled with a Cincinnati team that was hot from deep early, but a slew of forced turnovers and a string of nice plays by Luke Hancock turned a close game into a double-digit win.

It looked like Cincinnati might give No. 8 Louisville a run for their money and put a dent in their hopes of getting a Big East regular-season title, but Rick Pitino's squad went on a run that turned a tie game into a 67-51 win.

Russ Smith led all scorers with 18 points, but it was Cincinnati's 21 turnovers — and a nice stretch from bench shooter Luke Hancock — that gave the Cardinals the win.

Cincinnati came out gunning, hitting six three-pointers in the first half, including three by Cashmere Wright, to keep the game close. But it was just close: Peyton Siva had 11 points in the first half, including a three at the buzzer, and Smith had 10, enough to keep the Bearcats at arm's length and allowed Louisville to enter the half up 35-31.

The Bearcats went on a run to tie the game up, but Hancock gave the Cardinals a jolt. The George Mason transfer hit a jumper, drilled a three, and flipped a long outlet pass from Russ Smith up to Chane Behanan, who slammed the ball home and set off the home crowd. It sparked a 10-1 run for Louisville, and they wouldn't look back. The lead got to be as much as 16 points, and a game that was close turned into a double-digit win.

Louisville won pretty much the way you'd expect from the team with the top defensive efficiency in the country and two speedy guards: with a whole lot of steals, and a whole lot of points off penetration by Smith and Siva. The win puts Louisville half a game behind Georgetown in the race for the Big East title. Georgetown will play Villanova — a team that's won some trap games this year, including one against Louisville — and Syracuse, their big rival. Louisville's season finale is against Notre Dame — a rematch of their five-overtime game from earlier in the year.

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