LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Hosting Florida State for the first time in more than 25 years, the Louisville Cardinals gave FSU a rude welcome on Wednesday night.
Bolstered by a deep frontcourt that led to a heavy rebounding advantage, the No. 17 Cardinals jumped out to a big lead and cruised to an 84-65 victory over the Seminoles here at the KFC Yum! Center.
The loss snapped FSU’s two-game winning streak and put a halt to some of the momentum gained after last week’s victory over then-No. 11 Virginia. The Seminoles (12-6, 2-4 ACC) will look to get back on track at home on Saturday against Pittsburgh (4 p.m., ACC Network).
“These are the kinds of games, as coaches, you hope you don’t have but one of them a year,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “You learn from this and hopefully this will motivate us, as young as we are, to go back and get back on another winning streak.”
Freshman guard Malik Beasley scored a game-high 23 points on 10 of 16 shooting to extend his streak of double-digit scoring to 18 games.
Beyond that, though, there wasn’t much about this one that the Seminoles will want to remember.
With assist leader and third-leading scorer Xavier Rathan-Mayes sidelined due what Hamilton called a “coach’s decision,” the Seminoles struggled to find much success against Louisville’s second-ranked scoring defense.
They shot just 42.4 percent from the field and converted only 9 of 21 free-throw attempts.
Even that number is somewhat deceiving – the Seminoles started the game 3 of 10 from the free-throw line.
“Actually, we’re one of the better free throw shooting teams in the conference, but it didn’t look like that tonight,” Hamilton said. ‘I don’t know when I’ve been in a game where we’ve shot so poorly from the free throw line.”
Senior Devon Bookert finished with 18 points and seven boards, but Dwayne Bacon, the team’s next leading scorer, made just 4 of 17 field-goal attempts and finished with 12 points.
Beasley, Bookert and Bacon accounted for 53 of FSU’s 65 points. No other Seminole scored more than five.
“I thought that (Louisville) created a lot of indecision on our kids’ part. …” Hamilton said.
“It just shows that a lot of our young, inexperienced guys were obviously somewhat tentative and just didn’t have that mental and emotional focus that it takes to come in and play against a team that’s playing as well as Louisville did tonight.”
Playing its first game in nearly a week, Louisville (15-3, 4-1) looked the part of a fresher, deeper team.
With 6-10, 240-pound center Chinanu Onuaku leading the way, the Cardinals enjoyed a heavy advantage in both rebounds (44-36) and points in the paint (42-34, although FSU had only 12 at halftime).
Onuaku (11 points, 14 rebounds) had his fifth straight double, while sophomore guard Quentin Snider added 20 points.
“We knew coming into the game they average about 15 offensive rebounds,” Beasley said. “We wanted to cut that down to seven, but that got out of hand quick because of their front line.”
Louisville’s dominance in the post once again shined a light on FSU’s lack of depth in that area. Senior center Michael Ojo (knee) has yet to play this season while sophomore forward Phil Cofer is out for the year while recovering from foot surgery.
Meanwhile, 7-footers Boris Bojanovsky and Chris Koumadje combined for five points and four rebounds.
“We’ve got to make up for our lack of size in the interior with better execution,” Hamilton said. ”You can’t let that become a problem because that’s who we are this year. We don’t have that power forward to match so we have to rebound as a team. I didn’t think we did that very well.”
The Seminoles held their own for stretches of the first half, hovering around a six-point deficit before Louisville closed the half on a 12-4 run that led to a 41-27 lead at the break.
The Cardinals then picked up where they left off, steadily throwing down alley-oops and dunks while building a lead that at one point ballooned to more than 30 points.
The Seminoles closed the game on a 10-0 run in the game’s waning minutes to provide the final margin.
For once, Hamilton said he’s glad to have a deceptively quick turnaround between games. The team will return to Tallahassee early Thursday morning before hosting Pitt on Saturday, which means there won’t be time to dwell much on Wednesday’s result.
Instead, they’ll look to flush this one and recapture the form that they had just a few days ago.
“We need to get back to work,” Hamilton said. “This loss will motivate us and inspire us. We’re not nearly as bad a team as we displayed tonight.”