LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Louisville used a combination of sharp shooting and effective defense Saturday afternoon to put away Kent State.
The Cardinals got 17 points from Christen Cunningham and 16 from Dwayne Sutton — both season highs — as they notched their seventh consecutive home win, beating the Golden Flashes 83-70.
Louisville (8-3) shot 51 percent from the floor, making 26 of 51, led by Cunningham, who made 5-of-6 shots.
“I think our best offense today was just driving the ball,” he said. “When teams are out denying the passing lanes, it leaves a lot of space for me in the court. I think that just opened up getting some easy baskets, and I got into a pretty good rhythm.”
The Golden Flashes (8-2) led 13-10 after a Jalen Avery 3-pointer with 13:10 left in the first half. However, Kent State made just two baskets over the next 6:47 as the Cardinals took command. A Malik Williams 3-pointer with 12:28 left in the half made it 14-13 Cardinals, who never trailed after that.
Louisville finished the first half making eight of its last 10 shots, capped by a Cunningham 15-footer with two seconds left that extended the halftime lead 45-28. The graduate transfer from Samford scored 12 points in the half, hitting all four of his shots.
Cardinals coach Chris Mack especially liked the way his team played on both sides of the court in the first half, as Kent State missed seven of its last 11 shots.
“I thought that was as good as we played on both ends of the floor. That’s where we got the separation,” he said.
The lead grew to 54-30 with 16:36 remaining after a 3-point play by Cunningham. Louisville led by 19 with 1:21 left before the Golden Flashes finished off the game with a 6-0 run.
Sutton, a junior wing, scored 12 of his points and grabbed six of his seven rebounds in the second half. Jordan Nwora and Williams added 13 points for Louisville, with Nwora posting 10 rebounds.
Jaylin Walker scored 28 points to lead Kent State. It’s the fourth time the senior guard, who drained 7 of-10 3-point shots, has led the Golden Flashes in scoring in five games since serving a five-game suspension to start the season.
Kent State: Off to their best start in five years, the Golden Flashes finally hit a roadblock as they stepped up in competition. After holding their first nine opponents to 43.9 percent shooting, the Golden Flashes allowed Louisville to shoot 60 percent in the first half and could not keep pace.
“I was disappointed in where we were defensively,” coach Rob Senderoff said. “We weren’t as locked in as we needed to be, but at the same time you’ve got to give them credit. They made shots, they made plays for each other. They competed at a high level. That’s why they were playing as well as they were.”
Louisville: The Cardinals eclipsed the 50 percent shooting mark for just the fourth time this season, but it was as much due to their outside shooting as their work inside. Louisville shot a season-best 50 percent from beyond the 3-point arc on 9-of-18 shooting.
After committing a season-high 17 turnovers in their 72-68 win over Lipscomb Saturday, the Cardinals committed just 10 on Saturday, and that came even after Kent State employed a trapping defense.
“They were virtually pressing from the 12-minute mark on down, and for us to do what we did, we didn’t quite convert every time, but I thought we got the shots that we wanted,” Mack said.
FORE STEPPING UP
The Cardinals got a strong game from another graduate transfer as well. Khwan Fore started for the second straight game, and the guard who came from Richmond, known mostly as a defensive stopper, posted a season-best nine points on 3-of-4 shooting.
Kent State: The Golden Flashes will travel to play Oregon State in a Friday afternoon affair.
Louisville: The Cardinals also return to action Friday, when they host Robert Morris. It will be Louisville’s last game before hosting No. 19 Kentucky on Dec. 29.
More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/tag/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25