LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Rick Pitino didn't buy into the hype, even as Louisville (No. 21 ESPN/USA Today, No 20 AP) ripped off eight straight wins to open the season.
The coach refused to say whether the Cardinals were "legit" following a victory over UNLV last weekend, believing all the 22nd-ranked Runnin' Rebels did was expose his team's weaknesses -- even if he refused to say what they were.
There's no need for him to expand now, not after Drexel methodically dismantled the Cardinals 52-46 on Tuesday night, ending Louisville's unbeaten run at its new downtown arena.
The Dragons (7-1) slowed the tempo and made the Cardinals (8-1) work while never backing down to post their first win over a ranked team in four years.
"It's big for our program, it's big for our confidence," Drexel coach Bruiser Flint said. "You can't come in here and lay down."
Drexel hardly did that, dominating the Cardinals on the glass while maintaining a glacial pace to end Louisville's best start since 1996.
"Everybody came in thinking we were better than them," Colds said. "We felt we could do it. We knew it would be physical. We had to rebound, be strong on offense and slow them down."
"We didn't rebound," Pitino said. "That tells the story, 46-26, a very simple stat."
Louisville rolled to eight straight wins at the sparkling KFC Yum! Center to start the season and make a surprise appearance in the Top 25.
While Pitino stressed his team was too humble to get overconfident, the Cardinals certainly looked it at times against the Dragons in a dismal performance that exposed some of the flaws they had masked so well during their hot start.
"Coach warned us, told us Drexel could beat us if we didn't bring our 'A' game," forward Stephan Van Treese said. "We obviously didn't bring our 'A' game."
Louisville made just 4 of 16 3-pointers, allowed 11 second-chance points and struggled to get good shots when forced to run a halfcourt offense.
"When you don't get out on the break and don't rebound and do the little things that help you score [you lose]," Pitino said. "They deserve the victory and we didn't. Give them the credit."
Drexel repeatedly beat the Cardinals to loose balls to overcome 22 turnovers and an ice-cold 12-for-25 performance at the free throw line.
Louisville wasn't any better. The Cardinals came in shooting 67 percent from the line this year but also went 12 for 25 including some key misses in the second half.
Despite its sluggish play, Louisville appeared to be in control when a 3-pointer by Knowles gave the Cardinals a 33-26 lead with 17 minutes to play.
Yet Louisville squandered numerous opportunities to blow it open, and Drexel made the Cardinals pay by staying patient and never panicking.
"We brought the intensity and we kept them playing our game at our pace," Drexel forward Samme Givens said. "We knew if we did that we could compete and get the win."
Givens gave Drexel a 43-42 lead on a layup and the Dragons slowly -- very slowly -- extended it.
Still, the Cardinals had their chances in the final minutes but simply couldn't make shots. Louisville missed 11 of its last 12 field goals, including a 3-point attempt by Mike Marra that would have tied it at 47.
It was enough to let the Dragons hold on. They chased down a couple of key offensive rebounds in the last 3 minutes to extend possessions and deflate the Cardinals.
Drexel held Louisville 36 points below its season average to beat a ranked team for the first time since toppling then-No. 23 Syracuse in 2006.
The Dragons succeeded in doing what most of Louisville's early season opponents have failed to accomplish: keep the tempo reasonable and not let the Cardinals go off to the races.
Drexel made Louisville consistently burn 20-25 seconds off the shot clock, denying the Cardinals open 3-point looks and challenging them to drive the ball.
It worked perfectly.
Siva provided a spark during a 13-1 run that gave Louisville a 22-17 lead, but the Dragons ended the half with an 8-1 burst capped by a 3-pointer from Fouch just before the horn.
It marked Louisville's lowest scoring half of the season and a sign of things to come.
"We knew we couldn't let up," Givens said. "It feels great to get a win like this. We have to make sure we don't let it go to our heads."
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