STORRS, Conn. (AP) — Russ Smith scored 18 of his 23 points in the second half to lead No. 18 Louisville to a 76-64 win over Connecticut on Saturday night.
Montrezl Harrell added 18 points, 13 rebounds and three blocked shots for the Cardinals (16-3, 5-1 American), who won for the fifth time in six games.
The Cardinals have won eight of the last nine meetings with the Huskies.
Shabazz Napier had a career high 30 points to lead Connecticut (14-4, 2-3), which was coming off a win Thursday at No. 17 Memphis.
But the Huskies had no answer for Harrell. The 6-foot-8 sophomore hit eight of his 10 shots and helped the Cardinals to a 45-30 rebounding advantage.
Louisville used a 20-4 second half run to pull away, and then held on.
The game included Kevin Ollie’s first ejection as UConn’s head coach. He picked up two quick technical fouls in the second half after a no-call in front of the UConn bench.
Louisville led 34-28 at halftime, but UConn erased that deficit in the first 2 minutes of the second half. A 3-pointer by Napier tied the game at 34.
The Cardinals went on a 11-0 run from there, capped by Russ Smith’s driving layup and free throw, which made it 45-34.
Ollie was given a technical a short time later. He lost control after official Mike Stuart failed to call anything when Wayne Blackshear and Niels Giffey collided in front of the UConn bench as Giffey was shooting. Louisville made two of the four free throws to go up 49-38.
The Cardinals stretched that lead to 54-38 on a reverse layup by Blackshear before Tyler Olander snapped the run with a layup.
Connecticut began chipping away, and cut the deficit to nine on a tip-in by Giffey with just over 4 minutes remaining. It was down to eight a minute later after a pair of fouls shots by Amida Brimah, and seven when Napier drained a 3-pointer with 2:38 left.
But Smith made seven points in the last 2 minutes, and Louisville held on.
The Cardinals quickly took control underneath. Ten of Louisville’s first 12 points came in the paint.
Harrell hit seven of his eight first-half shots and had 15 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots before the break. A layup by Luke Hancock gave the Cardinals a 21-13 lead midway through the first half.
Napier, who scored more than 20 points for the sixth time this season, kept the Huskies in striking distance. He had 11 points in the half, but the Cardinals went into the break with a 34-28 lead.
UConn’s DeAndre Daniels, who had scored in double figures in five straight games, sat for most of the first half with two fouls. He finished with just three points
UConn’s 7-foot center Amida Brimah had two blocked shots and now has 50 on the season.
Connecticut had won three straight after dropping its first two conference games on the road in Texas to Houston and SMU.
Louisville guard Chris Jones missed his second straight game with an oblique injury. Freshman Terry Rozier started in his place and had five points.
Louisville is 5-1 since Chane Behanan was dismissed from the team last month. He was coming off the bench after starting 37 of 39 games during the Cardinals’ title run last year. The Cardinals also have been playing without Kevin Ware, who has been redshirted after struggling to come back from last year’s devastating leg injury sustained in the Midwest regional final against Duke.
UConn point guard Ryan Boatright was playing his second straight game since the death of his 20-year-old cousin Arin Williams, who was shot and killed Monday in Boatright’s hometown of Aurora, Ill.
Williams’ mother had died in childbirth, and he and Boatright were raised as brothers in Boatright’s home. The UConn junior had 10 points, but made just four of his 14 shots.
UConn hadn’t lost at Gampel Pavilion since being beaten by a point in double overtime by Georgetown last season.