LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Rick Pitino has spent the last two months
reminding his Louisville players of the challenge awaiting them in
the Big East Conference once the calendar flips to January.
Finally it seems, the Cardinals are listening.
Taquan Dean scored 19 points, leading four Louisville players in
double figures as the 10th-ranked Cardinals put together their best
game of the season in an 89-66 win over Fairleigh Dickinson
"They know who is around the corner," Pitino said. "We played
with unbelievable effort. This is the hardest that we've played."
The Cardinals (10-1) haven't exactly looked dominant during
their early nonconference schedule, struggling to beat overmatched
teams in nine December home games.
Against the Knights (5-6), Louisville put together the kind of
complete performance Pitino knows his club will need heading to
Miami on Saturday before hosting No. 3 Villanova in the first Big
East game in school history.
"The real college basketball is right ahead of us," Dean said.
Brandon Jenkins scored 17 points, David Padgett added 16 points
and seven rebounds and Juan Palacios 13 points and seven boards as
the Cardinals shared the ball (21 assists) and took control midway
through the first half with the kind of frenetic play that's become
"Everybody was loose, focused, nobody got sidetracked," Dean
said. "Coach stressed to get out on the fast break more and put
more pressure on the ball and we forced some early turnovers and
got easy baskets."
Andrea Crosariol led Fairleigh Dickinson (5-6) with 21 points,
but the visitors from the Northeast Conference simply could not
keep up with the Cardinals.
For the first time all season, the Cardinals went to full-court
pressure extensively and used it to score 32 points on 22 turnovers
by Fairleigh Dickinson.
"Their pressure got to us," FDU coach Tom Green said. "They
didn't do anything we didn't expect ... really there was just too
much talent for us tonight."
The Cardinals outrebounded the Knights 45-36, had 14 steals and
pushed the tempo with ease.
"It was a fun game to play," Padgett said. "From here on out
every game is going to be a war."
The Cardinals opened the game with the same sluggishness that
plagued them early in the season. Louisville turned the ball over
nine times in the first 9 minutes, many of the them unforced
Still, the Cardinals were hardly challenged. Louisville's
defense played as well while its offense was struggling, holding
the Knights to 29 percent shooting in the first half as the
Cardinals built a 37-20 lead at the break.
"The first half, our defense was great, we did everything coach
wanted us to do," Jenkins said. "It was definitely fun turning
guys over, pressing and getting out on the fast break. It's the way
coach wanted us to play. Now we just have to go out and get
Dean shot below 50 percent from the floor for the 10th time in
11 games (5-of-12) but played with the kind of patience and
confidence that makes Pitino optimistic the slump is almost over.
"Taquan let the game come to him tonight and he didn't rush
it," Pitino said. "He has to learn to trust his teammates."
Louisville's lead grew to 29 points midway through the second
half, as the Cardinals ran the floor and made the extra pass. It
wasn't perfect, but after slogging their way through much of
December, Pitino will take it.
"We are nowhere near where we need to be, or where we were last
year," Pitino said. "But our effort level is where we need it to