RedHawks' Bramos struggles as No. 10 Cards hold on for win

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Louisville forward Earl Clark's long arms can make up for a lot of shortcomings.

On Saturday, he used them to lift the stymied Cardinals (No. 10 ESPN/USA Today, No. 12 AP) past Miami of Ohio.

Clark hit two big baskets down the stretch, then shut down Miami's Tim Pollitz and Michael Bramos in the final minutes of the Cardinals' 47-44 victory.

"It's not a fun game to play in," said Clark, who finished with 10 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks.

Certainly not for the Cardinals (5-1), who struggled against Miami's deliberate attack. But for a team that has trouble playing good defense on consecutive possessions, being forced to play 40 minutes of it can only help.

"It was pressure packed with every possession," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "It was two teams playing great defense."

Louisville's was just a little better in the end.

Miami took a 42-41 lead with just over 3 minutes left, but would make just one field goal the rest of the way as the 6-foot-9 Clark found a way to stop the 6-5 Pollitz, who led all scorers with 22 points but had just four in the second half.

"We got in front of him and I made a few blocks," Clark said. "I wanted to take the challenge to guard him."

It was a challenge none of the Cardinals seemed up to in the first half. Pollitz scored 18 of Miami's 22 points and was the only RedHawk player to make a field goal.

"We thought he could score, but we didn't think he could dominate us like that," Pitino said.

It was Clark, however, who would dominate the final 3 minutes, hitting a putback and a layup to give Louisville a 45-42 lead. Clark's real impact, however came at the other end. He harassed Pollitz into missing a jumper to protect the lead.

Kenny Hayes hit a runner to pull to 45-44, and Derrick Caracter missed a jumper to give the RedHawks a chance. The Cardinals forced Bramos to miss a runner in the lane and Clark reached over two players to get the rebound.

"Their defense was good that last 30 seconds," Pollitz said. "Bramos took a tough runner. We tried to get something going to the basket, the dice just rolled their way."

Edgar Sosa's two free throws with 3.3 seconds left sealed it and kept the Cardinals from losing for the second time in four games since center David Padgett went down with a knee injury.

"That would have opened a lot of people's eyes, losing to Miami of Ohio at home," Sosa said. "We probably would have fallen out of the top 25. It was a good win for us. We might meet up with a team like that in the NCAA Tournament."

Caracter added 12 points and five rebounds and Terrence Williams had 12 points and seven boards for Louisville.

Kenny Hayes had 11 points and six rebounds, but Miami couldn't overcome 37 percent shooting. Bramos, Miami's leading score, was held to five points, 19 below his season average. While Pollitz hit 11 of 22 field goals, the rest of the team made just seven of 27 shots from the floor.

Miami (3-3), which was playing its fifth game in 10 days, has lost three games this season by a total of eight points.

Still, the Cardinals were there for the taking. Louisville seemed frustrated by Miami's deliberate pace but couldn't find any rhythm offensively to pull away. Neither team led by more than six and the lead changed 17 times.

"We had three goals, to stop their 3s, keep them off the offensive glass and not make offensive turnovers," Pitino said. "One out of three isn't bad."

The RedHawks led 22-21 at the half, thanks almost entirely to Pollitz. The senior carried Miami, scoring 18 points on a variety of hooks, finger rolls and deft drop steps.

The Cardinals kept changing the matchup, putting Caracter, Clark and Terrance Farley -- all of whom are considerably taller than Pollitz -- on him in an effort to slow him down.

It didn't work.

"I saw the openings, so I was going to go ahead and do it," Pollitz said.

Unfortunately, his teammates had no such luck. While Pollitz hit nine of 16 shots in the first half, the rest of the RedHawks were a combined 0-for-9. Bramos, who came in averaging 24.4 points per game, was scoreless. He missed both of his first-half shots badly and ran into foul trouble.

Louisville, however, couldn't take advantage. The Cardinals struggled taking care of the ball, and shot just 36 percent from the floor.

The RedHawks succeeded in controlling the tempo, holding the ball deep into the shot clock before letting Pollitz go to work.

"We wanted to speed them up, we tried to turn them over, but they just wouldn't let us," Sosa said. "They're very smart and very wise."