Louisville smothers Arkansas State, allows just 27 points

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Louisville coach Rick Pitino believes his team's offense will improve. Even with numerous injuries, the Cardinals' defensive effort was as good as it's been in 64 years.

Kyle Kuric scored 12 points and No. 7 Louisville beat turnover-prone Arkansas State 54-27 on Tuesday night in the lowest-scoring game for the Red Wolves since the shot clock was implemented in 1986.

"It's been a while since I've seen that," Kuric said.

Louisville last held a team to fewer than 27 points in 1947, when the Cardinals beat Georgetown College 20-13. Louisville (4-0) has not allowed more than 54 points to anyone this season.

"I think we're playing awesome defense. We have been in every game," Pitino said. "We did a lot of good things defensively. That sticks out to me. Any time you play great defense you have a chance to win."

Gorgui Dieng added 10 points and seven rebounds for the Cardinals as they continue to deal with a swath of injuries, including one to starting point guard Peyton Siva. Arkansas State (1-4) committed 22 turnovers for a second straight game and shot 24.4 percent from the field.

"I've coached a long time and all kinds of teams," said Red Wolves coach John Brady, who took LSU to the Final Four in 2006. "I don't think I've ever had a team so anemic offensively, and I give Louisville credit."

The Red Wolves scored the first five points of the game, but Louisville used a 16-0 first-half run to open a double-digit lead. The Cardinals slowly pulled away in the second half to win the opener of a 10-game homestand.

Brandon Peterson had six points and 10 rebounds for Arkansas State, which had its lowest offensive output since beating Wisconsin-Green Bay 24-23 during the 1981-82 season.

Siva, who had a concussion earlier this year, missed his second game because of a severely sprained ankle, but the Cardinals got back forward Stephan Van Treese for the first time after he sprained a ligament in his knee. Van Treese committed three first-half fouls and finished without scoring.

Louisville is also missing Rakeem Buckles (knee), freshman Wayne Blackshear (shoulder) and Mike Marra (knee), who was lost for the season after tearing a ligament on Nov. 13. The Cardinals beat Butler 69-53 on Saturday in their only road game until playing Kentucky at Rupp Arena on Dec. 31.

That game will match a potent offense against a defense that Dieng says can get better.

"We can't judge how good we are because it is too early," Dieng said. "We could do better blocking shots, giving up only one shot and not giving up second shots. We need to protect the basket better and not slip off screens, and guard the pick-and-roll better."

Arkansas State scored the first five points and led 7-3 early before Louisville turned up the defensive pressure on a 16-0 run. The Red Wolves went nearly 9½ minutes without a point, committing eight turnovers and missing seven shots in the ugly span before Rakeem Dickerson's jumper.

After taking just 2 minutes to score five points, the Red Wolves scored 11 over the next 29 minutes of play.

Meanwhile, Louisville made it a point to get to the rim.

Chris Smith completed an alley-oop to Kuric, then found Chane Behanan for another dunk. On another possession, Louisville grabbed two offensive rebounds before Behanan went up strong over two defenders to make it 19-7 and cap the spurt.

Late in the first half, the Cardinals went scoreless for 5½ minutes, but Arkansas State only managed to whittle the lead down to 19-12 before Kuric's layup with 2:22 left ended the drought.

Arkansas State, picked to finish first in the Sun Belt Conference's West Division, came in averaging 18.8 turnovers and committed them in bunches early against the Cardinals. At the half, the Red Wolves had 16 turnovers and trailed 22-12.

"We don't see, 'Oh, they have five and we have 11,'" Kuric said. "We think, 'Oh, they have five. Let's get a stop. Then, let's get another stop. And then let's keep scoring and getting stops and try to push that margin.'"

The second half wasn't much better.

Russ Smith's 3-pointer with 11:33 left gave the Cardinals their first 20-point lead, 36-16, and he hit another one moments later as the Red Wolves went another 8 minutes without a basket on the way to their new mark for futility.

"We played great defense," Pitino said. "I'm happy."

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