LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Louisville forward Earl Clark just laughs when talking about the wide-eyed freshman who looked lost on the floor at times last year
Clark says he's grown up now, more comfortable. He certainly looked at ease while putting together the finest game of his young career in Louisville's 84-53 win over Jackson State on Sunday.
Clark scored 20 points to go with 14 rebounds and seven assists while showcasing the all-around play that coach Rick Pitino thinks will land Clark in the NBA one day.
Not so fast, said Clark. After spending most of last season trying to find himself in Pitino's demanding system, he's only too happy to focus on the present and not worry about what lays down the road.
"Last year, everything just came so fast," Clark said. "I wanted success too early. I didn't want to go through what all freshmen go through. I was just looking to come in [and star] but it was a stage that I had to go through and I went it. Now I just want a chance to get a lot of minutes and make my teammates better."
A day after Terrence Williams recorded the third triple-double in school history, Clark nearly matched the feat. Feeding teammates from the high post, he hit cutters driving to the basket and looked comfortable handling the ball in the open floor.
"I just wanted to get my teammates involved," Clark said.
Louisville center David Padgett scored nine points in 12 minutes before leaving the game late in the first half after injuring his right knee while setting a pick. He limped to the training room and spent the second half watching from the bench with his knee wrapped in ice.
Padgett underwent surgery on both knees following the 2005-06 season, but should be available Wednesday when the Cardinals play at UNLV.
Though Clark struggled to find his shot early, he made up for it by attacking the basket and getting to the free throw line, something he rarely did last year as a skinny freshman.
"Something just clicked," Clark said. "I'm just out there reacting now. I'm not thinking too much."
The hot shooting that led the Cardinals to a 35-point rout of Hartford on Saturday abandoned them against the Tigers. Louisville shot just 43 percent from the field and made just six 3-pointers against Jackson State -- 16 less than the school-record 22 they poured in against the Hawks.
It took the Cardinals awhile to figure out they weren't going to make every shot. They looked lackadaisical early on, allowing the Tigers to stay within three late in the first half.
"Coach told us we weren't going to make everything and we needed to get the intensity up," McGee said. "We know it starts with our defense and we just wanted to push the tempo."
With Clark and McGee leading the way, Louisville overpowered the Tigers. The Cardinals outrebounded Jackson State 53-39 and blocked seven shots, including three by Clark.
The Cardinals, who looked sloppy trying to press Hartford, had more success against the Tigers. Louisville forced the defending SWAC champions into 17 turnovers and held the Tigers to 30 percent shooting from the floor, including just 26 percent in the second half.
"Playing back-to-back games is very difficult," Pitino said. "We did what we had to do. As Bill Russell says, the only statistic that matters is the 'W' and we got the 'W.'"
The Tigers hung close early and trailed by just three late in the first half, but Louisville pulled away with a 25-9 run spanning the end of the first half and the beginning of the second half.
"I thought we played well early on, but as the game went along, I thought we got a little fatigued," said Jackson State coach Tevester Anderson. "Our big guys got in foul trouble and naturally we need them to be successful."
The win sets up a big week for the Cardinals. After playing UNLV, they face BYU on Friday and either Old Dominion or No. 1 North Carolina in the final round of the Las Vegas Invitational on Saturday.
"We did this to try and make ourselves tougher," Pitino said. "It's going to be quite a test. We didn't play bad but we can't play those teams like we played these two games."