Dec. 7, 2008

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -Louisville may have found the point guard it's been looking for in power forward Earl Clark.

The junior had 17 points, 14 rebounds and a career-high eight assists as the 11th-ranked Cardinals dominated Ohio 91-56 in the Marques Maybin Classic on Sunday.

Deftly guiding Louisville's offense from the high post, Clark played his best game of the season as the Cardinals (4-1) overwhelmed the Bobcats.

Samardo Samuels led Louisville with 19 points - most of them coming on nifty feeds from Clark - as Louisville won its second straight after being upset by Western Kentucky a week ago.

Jerome Tillman led Ohio (3-3) with 21 points and seven rebounds, but the Bobcats shot 37 percent, turned it over 18 times and went without a field goal during a 10-minute stretch spanning the first and second half.

Clark, who briefly left Louisville last spring to test his NBA prospects before returning to school, did a little bit of everything. He was 7-of-11 from the field, including a couple of perfectly executed bank shots over smaller opponents. His long arms gobbled up rebounds and - perhaps most importantly for a team still looking for some leadership - he found a way to get his teammates the ball.

Coach Rick Pitino worried during the preseason how the Cardinals would fare without David Padgett running things. The do-everything center, who graduated in May, was Louisville's security blanket during last season's run to the NCAA tournament's regional finals. When plays would break down, the Cardinals would get the ball to Padgett at the top of the key and his heady decision-making would bail his teammates out.

Against the Bobcats, Clark showed he may be the man for the job.

On Louisville's first possession, he hit a cutting Jerry Smith for a layup. When the Bobcats tried to double-team Clark, he would flash to the free throw line and when the defense came, he'd simply lob it to Samuels for a dunk or an easy layup.

The Bobcats kept it close for awhile.

Steven Coleman hit a 3-pointer to bring Ohio within 26-19 with 8 minutes to play in the first half, but it would be the Bobcats' last field goal for more than 10 minutes. By the time Freeman hit a jumper more than 2 minutes into the second half, Louisville led 48-31.

Clark and Samuels made sure the Bobcats wouldn't get any closer. Samuels put in an easy layup off a pass from Clark, then took a charge on Ohio's ensuing possession. He converted a three-point play, added two free throws and capped his own 12-point run with a breakaway dunk and another three-point play to make it 60-31.

Smith, making his first start in three games, showed signs of snapping out of an early season funk. He scored 16 points and appeared to make headway in getting back into Pitino's good graces.

Smith, a starter for most of the last two seasons, hadn't played well early in the season and found himself coming off the bench in Louisville's last two games as Pitino tinkered with his lineup.

Back with the starters against the Bobcats, Smith easily played his best game of the season. He scored Louisville's first seven points, and perhaps just as importantly, did it without just settling for jumpers. His layup got things going and he followed it with a tip-in. Clark then stepped in front of a pass at midcourt and found Smith in his favorite spot on the wing, where he knocked down a 3-pointer.