No. 7 Louisville holds off Bobcats, 59-54

Published 10:18 pm Saturday, November 26, 2011

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Kyle Kuric scored 16 points and Gorgui Dieng grabbed a career-high 16 rebounds to lead to No. 7 Louisville to a 59-54 victory over Ohio on Friday night in the Global Sports Invitational.

Rick Pitino’s 250th victory as Louisville’s coach was in doubt until the final minute. Ohio held a six-point lead with under 4 minutes to play before the Cardinals rallied.

Kuric hit a 3 in the corner, made a key steal and helped find Chris Smith for a fast-break layup that gave Louisville a 53-51 lead with 1:49 left.

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After a dunk by Chane Behanan, Ohio’s D.J. Cooper hit a 3-pointer to cut it to 55-54, but T.J. Hall and Cooper missed 3s in the closing seconds that would’ve tied the game.

Louisville (5-0), which has won 13 straight at the KFC Yum! Center, got a lift from the surprise return of point guard Peyton Siva, who missed the previous two games with a severely sprained left ankle.

The bigger surprise appeared to be the Bobcats, who were poised to knock off a top-10 team on the road for the first time in program history.

Ohio (3-1) made two comebacks in the second half, including erasing a nine-point deficit to tie it at 41 with 5:12 left after Walter Offutt scored twice down low before Hall hit a 3-pointer that had Pitino calling timeout.

The Bobcats weren’t done.

Kuric missed a jumper for Louisville and Cooper hit a 3 to give Ohio its first lead in more than 21 minutes, 46-43. After another Louisville miss, Cooper followed with a three-point play that left teammate Stevie Taylor pointing to the sky in delight.

The Cardinals promptly battled back, putting together a 9-0 run to take a 55-51 lead. Smith hit two free throws and had the tiebreaking fast-break layup during the spurt.

Cooper hit a 27-foot 3-pointer that cut it to one, but Siva hit two free throws and neither Hall or Cooper could hit 3s on Ohio’s final possession. Behanan hit two free throws for the final margin and finished with 11 points.

Cooper scored 16 and Keely had 11 for the Bobcats, who had one of the better performances against Louisville’s defense, which continues to throttle opponents by allowing an average of 46 points over the first five games.

The shifting zones and pressure have taken the spotlight off the Cardinals’ injury situation. Louisville is without Mike Marra (left knee), Rakeem Buckles (right knee) and Wayne Blackshear (right shoulder).

Dieng is a work in progress, but showed promise against Ohio.

Ten of his 16 rebounds were on offense and he went 5 of 10 from the field. On one possession, the 6-foot-11 sophomore was stripped of the ball as Pitino shouted “Don’t bring it down! Don’t bring it down!”

The next time, Dieng kept the ball high and went up strong for two, heeding his coach’s advice on the way to a career night.