LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Louisville used a burst of sustained energy to wear down Louisiana-Lafayette.
Athleticism has been a staple for the defending national champions, but the Cardinals never let up offensively even after taking control. The intensity also helped their defense take another small step in its development, resulting in their highest output in several years.
Montrezl Harrell scored 20 points and seventh-ranked Louisville beat the Ragin' Cajuns 113-74 on Saturday.
"Our goal tonight because we weren't playing very good defense," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said, "was just to try and fatigue them so they would shoot a lower percentage and I think the guys did a good job of that. Keep the pace up, keep it going, take advantage of their foul trouble and pick-and-roll them to death."
What looked like a challenge midway through the first half for the Cardinals (8-1) ended with them achieving a season high for points and the most ever in their three-year-old arena. In fact, Louisville scored its most in a game since drilling Western Kentucky -- its next opponent -- 114-82 nearly three years ago.
The Cardinals were helped by 38-of-62 shooting from the field (61 percent). The Ragin' Cajuns (6-3) rallied from an 18-9 deficit to grab the last of several small leads at 41-39 before Louisville turned up the intensity on both ends.
The Ragin' Cajuns cooled off from 61 percent in the first half to shoot 7 of 31 in the second half.
Harrell was 9 of 10 from the field with eight rebounds in leading six Cardinals in double figures. Chris Jones added 19 points, Russ Smith 16, Wayne Blackshear 15, Terry Rozier 11 and Luke Hancock 10 to reach 1,000 in his career.
Shawn Long's 25 points led ULL, which finished 9 of 26 from 3-point range but just 26 of 62 from the field (42 percent). Kasey Shepherd added 18 and Elfrid Payton 12 for the Ragin' Cajuns, who were outscored 60-34 in the paint.
"At the end of the first half, we felt that we should have maintained the lead or (be) right there, tied at the half," ULL coach Bob Martin said. "Obviously, we shot the ball well in the first half; the second half we did not shoot the ball well. ... And they (the Cardinals) played outstanding."
Louisville improved to 9-0 against ULL, the first of two straight Sun Belt Conference foes. The Cardinals host WKU next Saturday.
Offense quickly became the game's theme as both teams shot well in the first half. The Ragin' Cajuns hit 7 of 10 from 3-point range and 19 of 31 overall while Louisville worked the ball around floor in shooting 71 percent (20 of 28) for a hard-earned 54-47 lead at the break.
Helped by five 3-pointers over six-plus minutes, ULL rallied from an 18-9 deficit with a 23-14 run for a 32-all game with 7:35 left. That opened up other areas for the Ragin' Cajuns, who seemed unfazed by any of Louisville's defensive looks in leading four times after that.
J.J. Davenport, ULL's 6-foot-6, 325-pound reserve center, pushed his weight around to contribute a couple of layups during the run. Shepherd added five points including a 3-pointer while Long put the finishing touches on a 16-point half with his second from long range against Louisville's smaller guards.
Louisville responded with crisp play down the stretch that helped them stay even before taking a 54-47 lead into the locker room with a 13-6 closing run. The Cardinals followed with a 21-9 run in the first 6:03 of the second half for a 75-54 lead, reaching 90 points with 10 minutes left and stretching their lead to 30 a couple of minutes later.
"They looked pretty tired," Smith said. "They made some good 3s in the first half and eventually they had to cool off at some point."
Louisville also scored 32 points off 17 turnovers while out-rebounding ULL 41-29. Though the defense has a long way to go to reach the proficiency of last year's team, those statistics plus another game-changing spurt are signs that that phase is coming together.
"We had to lock in," Blackshear said. "We gave them confidence in the first half and they were knocking down a lot of 3s. We just had to lock in and just play aggressive."
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