LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Anton Gill celebrated his 20th birthday by breaking out of a slump and leading No. 5 Louisville’s best shooting night of the season.
The sophomore reserve scored a career-high 15 points, shooting 3 for 5 on 3-pointers, as the Cardinals sailed to a 82-57 win over Florida International on Friday night.
Gill called it a “pretty good birthday present” and mentioned he hadn’t even had a chance to enjoy any cake as teammate Mangok Mathiang put his arm around him and playfully mouthed a few lines “Happy Birthday.”
Louisville (7-0) matched a season high by shooting 40 percent (8 of 20) from behind the arc and shot a season-high 57 percent (32 for 56). Recruited as a shooter, Gill had hit just 1 of his 13 3-point attempts entering the game.
“Once you see the ball going in, it changes your demeanor,” Gill said. “Hopefully I can build from this. Now it’s time for me to pick up other things.”
Gill’s development would be a boost to the Cardinals still looking to find a backcourt rotation behind starters Chris Jones and Terry Rozier. Despite the win Louisville coach Rick Pitino’s focused on his team’s poor passing and ball fakes that played a role in their 20 turnovers.
“This team hunts points and that is why they don’t look as good as the past three years,” Pitino said.
Louisville made up for any passing deficiencies by forcing 25 turnovers, one shy of their season high in an 87-26 rout of Savannah State.
“We didn’t handle their pressure well once they wrapped it up a little bit,” FIU coach Anthony Evans said.
The Cardinals started slow before an 18-0 run in the first half and strong start after halftime overtook the Panthers.
Five Cardinals scored 11 or more points. Preseason All-America forward Montrezl Harrell had 13 points and 12 rebounds, his third consecutive double-double.
Dennis Mavin led FIU (5-4) with 15 points and Marco Porcher Jimenez added 13 while shooting 4 for 6 on 3s.
The Panthers held Louisville to eight points in the game’s opening 10 minutes before Louisville sprung to 24-10 lead.
Louisville trailed 10-6 before scoring 18 consecutive points in less than 6 minutes, capped by Gill’s first 3-pointer with 5:51 left in the half. FIU missed 10 straight field goals, going scoreless for nearly 8 minutes.
Tashawn Desir’s 3 cut the lead to single digits for the last time at 31-23 before Louisville scored five points in the final minute to take a 13-point lead at halftime.
The Cardinals then started the second half on a 16-4 run. Gill’s final 3 put Louisville up 61-31 with 11:52 remaining.
Louisville: The Cardinals won their 33rd straight home game against non-conference opponents dating back to a Dec. 31, 2010, against Kentucky. The Cardinals have four more non-conference games at home this month before beginning ACC play, including a Dec. 27 matchup against the top-ranked Wildcats.
FIU: The Panthers ranked eighth nationally in 3-point field-goal defense (23 percent) with opposing teams scoring just an average of 55 points per game entering Friday. … The game marked the start of an eight-game road trip. The Panthers don’t play again at home until Jan. 15. … Richard Pitino, the son of Louisville’s Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino, led FIU to an 18-14 record in 2012-13 before taking the job at Minnesota.
Sophomore walk-on David Levitch made his first career start for the Cardinals in place of Terry Rozier. Pitino said following the game that he sat the sophomore guard for missing a class. Rozier was the first substitute off the bench and finished with 12 points in 22 minutes.
Louisville: Against Indiana at New York on Tuesday.
FIU: At Florida Gulf Coast on Dec. 14.
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