Clark, Louisville dump Mississippi for fifth straight win

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

CINCINNATI -- Earl Clark had career highs of 25 points and 16 rebounds and No. 9 Louisville held off Mississippi 77-68 on Thursday night, adding a little more misery to Rebels coach Andy Kennedy's day.

Samardo Samuels added nine points and 13 rebounds as the Cardinals (7-1) won their fifth straight.

David Huertas had 20 points for the Rebels (7-4), who fought gamely after a tumultuous day that began with Kennedy's arrest on misdemeanor assault charges following an altercation with a cab driver.

Kennedy, a former assistant and interim head coach at Cincinnati, decided to coach the game after meeting with athletic director Pete Boone. He received a warm ovation after being introduced and exchanged handshakes with local radio personnel during halftime.

The Rebels trailed by 18 points but kept chipping away and tied the game at 67 on a 3-pointer by Chris Warren with 5:26 remaining.

It would be Mississippi's last field goal as Louisville closed the game with a 10-1 run. Clark started it with a layup and Edgar Sosa followed with a 3-pointer and Louisville's defense -- ranked fifth in the nation in points allowed -- made it hold up.

The loss capped a rough day for Kennedy, who denied allegations that he called the driver racial epithets and his attorney entered a written plea of not guilty. A pretrial date was set for Jan. 16.

If Kennedy's troubles bothered his team, it didn't show during a valiant rally.

Louisville's six previous wins had come inside the comfy atmosphere and friendly rims at Freedom Hall.

Things weren't quite so easy at U.S. Bank Arena for the second game of the doubleheader between teams from the Big East and Southeastern conferences. The Cardinals were 1-5 in their last six regular season neutral-site games and seemed on the brink of making it 1-6 after the Rebels took a 63-62 lead on a tip-in by DeAundre Cranston with 7:31 to play.

The Cardinals gathered themselves and harassed Huertas and Warren into rushed shots, allowing Louisville to escape.

Louisville's win, combined with Cincinnati's victory over Mississippi State in the early game, earned the Big East a 2-2 split in the four-game invitational. Vanderbilt beat South Florida and No. 16 Tennessee knocked off No. 24 Marquette in Nashville on Tuesday.

The win was a catharsis of sorts for the Cardinals, whose only loss this season was a 68-54 stunner against Western Kentucky last month. The Cardinals admitted after that game that they came out a little flat and didn't think they had to work hard to beat the Hilltoppers.

They vowed not to make the same mistake against the Rebels and it worked.

The Cardinals built a 32-14 lead behind Clark, who did whatever he wanted. He scored 10 of Louisville's first 12 points and tied his season high of 17 on a nifty layup before the game was 8 minutes old, playing with the kind of energy coach Rick Pitino wishes would come more often from his sometimes sleepy star.

Mississippi, however, steadied itself and fought back as Clark and the Cardinals cooled. The Rebels ended the half with a 16-3 flurry capped by a 26-footer from Warren, who shot it over two defenders at the buzzer to cut the deficit to 38-34.

Louisville played without assistant coach Steve Masiello, whose father Steve Sr., died of a heart attack earlier this week. Pitino said he would attempt to attend a wake for Masiello Sr. in New York on Friday then fly to Phoenix to join the team. Louisville plays undefeated Minnesota in the Stadium Shootout on Saturday.

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