Clark, Louisville dump Mississippi for fifth straight win

CINCINNATI -- Mississippi coach Andy Kennedy's day started off with chaos and ended with contrition, but not a victory.

Louisville's do-everything forward Earl Clark made sure of that.

Clark had career highs of 25 points and 16 rebounds and the ninth-ranked Cardinals held off the Rebels 77-68 on Thursday night, hours after Kennedy's arrest following an altercation with a cab driver.

"I'm not going to lie, it's been a difficult 24 hours," Kennedy said.

A former assistant and interim head coach at Cincinnati, Kennedy was arrested Thursday morning and charged with first-degree misdemeanor assault after a cab driver said Kennedy punched him and called him "bin Laden."

Kennedy entered a written not guilty plea on Thursday afternoon and a pretrial date was set for Jan. 16. Kennedy decided to coach against the Cardinals after meeting with university officials. He received a warm ovation after being introduced.

Clark made sure it was the highlight of Kennedy's night.

Dominating at both ends of the court at times, Clark helped the Cardinals (7-1) hold off a valiant rally by the Rebels (7-4) to win their fifth straight.

"[Clark] had to be Superman for us tonight and he was," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said.

Samardo Samuels added nine points and 13 rebounds and Terrence Williams had seven points, 11 rebounds and four assists as Louisville held the Rebels to one field goal over the final 7:31.

"It was an easy game that we could have lost," Clark said. "We could have hung our heads and started pointing the finger and not be intense. But we stuck with it and played defense and got stops at the end of the game."

The Cardinals needed the stops after the Rebels rallied from an 18-point deficit behind guards David Huertas and Chris Warren. Huertas scored 17 of his 20 points in the second half and Warren added 18, including a 3-pointer that tied the game at 67 with 5:31 to play.

It would be Mississippi's last field goal as Louisville closed the game with a 10-1 run. Clark started it with a layup, Edgar Sosa followed with a 3-pointer and Louisville's defense -- ranked fifth in the nation in points allowed -- made it hold up.

"We made some smart plays down the stretch," Pitino said.

The Cardinals swarmed Huertas and Warren, fighting through screens to force rushed shots. Things got even worse for the Rebels in the final minute when Warren left the game after injuring his left knee.

Kennedy said Warren may have damaged the anterior cruciate ligament in the knee, bad news for a team that has already lost guards Trevor Gaskins and Eniel Polynice to season-ending injuries.

"It's bad," Kennedy said.

The win was a catharsis for the Cardinals, whose six previous wins had come inside the comfy atmosphere and friendly rims at Freedom Hall.

Things weren't quite so easy at U.S. Bank Arena for the second game of the doubleheader between teams from the Big East and Southeastern conferences.

The Cardinals were 1-5 in their last six regular season neutral-site games and seemed on the brink of making it 1-6 after the Rebels took a 63-62 lead on a tip-in by DeAundre Cranston with 7:31 to play.

Clark and Williams helped make sure it didn't happen. Williams took it upon himself to shut down Huertas and Clark did the rest.

"What a fantastic player he is," Kennedy said. "He's so long and athletic we had nobody physically that could match up against him."

The Cardinals built a 32-14 lead behind Clark, who did whatever he wanted. He scored 10 of Louisville's first 12 points and tied his season high of 17 on a nifty layup before the game was 8 minutes old, playing with the kind of energy Pitino wishes would come more often from his sometimes sleepy star.

Mississippi, however, steadied itself and fought back as Clark and the Cardinals cooled. The Rebels ended the half with a 16-3 flurry capped by a 26-footer from Warren, who shot over two defenders at the buzzer to cut the deficit to 38-34.

Louisville played without assistant coach Steve Masiello, whose father Steve Sr., died of a heart attack earlier this week. Pitino said he would attempt to attend a wake for Masiello Sr. in New York on Friday then fly to Phoenix to join the team. Louisville plays undefeated Minnesota in the Stadium Shootout on Saturday.

ESPN Fan Shop Powered By

  • adidas Men's Louisville Cardinals Hardwood Black Basketball T-ShirtPrice: $21.99 Shop