After dropping three of its last four games in January, No. 12 Louisville got back to business against No. 25 Marquette in its first game of February.
Backed by Russ Smith's game-high 18 points, the Cardinals got off to a hot start in the first half and kept rolling. Rick Pitino's squad shot the lights out at the KFC Yum! Center, hitting nearly 52 percent of its field-goal attempts.
Smith hit just six shots, including two threes, but he snagged five boards and recorded two steals in the 70-51 victory. Backcourt-mate Peyton Silva continued his strong senior season with an efficient 14 points and seven assists, setting up his teammates throughout the contest.
While Louisville's offense stepped up, it was the defense that really carried the team.
Meanwhile, for Marquette, Vander Blue (17 points) and Trent Lockett (16 points) were the only players who topped the six-point mark. The Golden Eagles shot just 35.8 percent from the field and lost the rebounding margin, 34-22.
Although Pitino won't be satisfied with his team's 16 turnovers, Louisville's head coach has to be pleased with the way his team dictated the pace and stomped a Top 25 opponent.
The Cardinals' 19-point victory came on the heels of a terrific opening half. Howie Lindsey of the Louisville SportsReport detailed Louisville's explosive first-half run:
Louisville ends the first half on a 28-8 run. Cardinals up 38-24. Russ Smith has 12p, 4r, 4s, 3a. #UofL— Howie Lindsey (@howielindsey) February 3, 2013
Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports highlighted the key to Louisville's blowout win:
Marquette came in leading Big East and will leave with about a 20-point loss. Louisville as good as its halfcourt offense will let it be.— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) February 3, 2013
Coach Mike Russell of Bonneville High School had an interesting take on Louisville's success:
33% of Louisville's offense comes from their defense. #DefenseWinsChampionships— Coach Mike Russell (@MikeRussell_25) February 3, 2013
@SportsNewsTN provided a link to the high-flying opening slam by Montrezl Harrell, who finished with six points and six board off the bench:
@BigEastMBB put together a highlight video showing off Louisville's performance in front of a white-out home crowd:
Louisville won 70-51 in front of their home white-out crowd against Marquette. Check out the highlights tinyurl.com/auo8h6c— Big East MBB (@BigEastMBB) February 3, 2013
In a matchup of two Top 25 teams, Louisville made Marquette look like a JV team. After a rough ending to January, Sunday's win could spark a resurgence for the former No. 1 team in the nation.
As long as the Cardinals backcourt continues to control the game and Russ Smith sinks shots, the Cardinals will be a dangerous team on anyone's schedule.