LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville went back and forth with Grand Canyon for a few minutes before seizing a lead that was never in doubt for the final 35 minutes.
Just what the 24th-ranked Cardinals needed after letting one slip away at No. 3 Michigan State.
Damion Lee matched his season-high with 24 points, Trey Lewis added 16 and Louisville used a 26-3 first-half run to break away from Grand Canyon and coast to a 111-63 blowout on Saturday.
Three days after losing a lead late in a 71-67 loss to the Spartans in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, the Cardinals (6-1) put it out of reach quickly against the overmatched Antelopes (6-1).
Buoyed by 64 percent shooting in the first half, Louisville turned a 12-12 game into a 38-15 lead and poured it on to break 100 points for the first time since Feb. 16, 2014, against Rutgers.
“Our thing was just to go out there and just kill ’em early,” Lee said after his fourth 20-point effort in five games.
Lee shot 7 of 13 from the field, including four 3-pointers, as Louisville made 38 of 70 attempts. It was the Cardinals’ sixth 50-percent shooting effort in seven games.
The Cardinals were 10 of 22 from behind the arc, compared to 3 of 13 for the Antelopes. Defense factored into Louisville’s first-half run as the Cardinals scored 16 points off eight turnovers and finished with 25 points from 15 takeaways.
Joshua Braun scored 15 points for Grand Canyon, which shot 37 percent and was outrebounded 55-20.
Donovan Mitchell had 13 points and seven rebounds while Quentin Snider had 12 points and eight assists for Louisville, which owned the paint (46-24) and bench points (44-23).
The Antelopes’ only bright spot came early behind a spirited effort against a retooled Louisville lineup featuring a frontcourt of Mangok Mathiang (seven points, four rebounds) and Ray Spalding (eight points, seven rebounds).
Grand Canyon wasn’t awed by the bigger Cardinals, with Grandy Glaze slamming home their first basket against the 6-foot-10 Mathiang and Uros Ljeskovic making a follow layup against bigger defenders.
But Louisville made 13 of its first 14 shots from the field leading to 14 straight points during the game-breaking surge for a 61-30 halftime lead. It was the Cardinals’ biggest 20 minutes since Nov. 18, 2006, against Northwestern State.
“We were able to get defensive stops and that led to easy transition buckets,” said Lewis, who was 5 of 6 from the field with two 3s. “I believe our big men started blocking shots. We were able to get the ball and get out in transition, which led to easy shots. And we also hit shots.”
Louisville opened the second half with a 10-0 run and Grand Canyon coach Dan Majerle, a former Phoenix Suns great, could only watch as his team’s deficit reached 55 points with 3 minutes left.
“They thought they were a lot better than we thought we were,” Majerle said of his players’ effort. “So it’s good that way, hopefully it got their attention. We have a lot of work that we have to get done.”
Louisville coach Rick Pitino suggested that Grand Canyon’s hectic travel schedule might have sapped players’ energy, something he said he remembers well from his days as an NBA coach. “They had to go west to east, and you just don’t have your legs,” he said. “They are a much better basketball team than that. We just shot the ball well.”
Grand Canyon: The Antelopes entered with an average victory margin of 18 points. Their unbeaten start included Thursday night’s 75-72 win over Central Michigan, Majerle’s alma mater. … Boubacar Toure registered Grand Canyon’s only block.
Louisville: The Cardinals had nine blocks, four by Anas Mahmoud. … Pitino went tieless for a change, sporting a gray suit with light gray shirt and white collar.
Grand Canyon hosts Southern on Tuesday.
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