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Clark leads Cardinals to victory over USF

Thanks to Louisville Coach Rick Petino, junior forward Earl Clark scored a game-high 22 points and led the Cardinals to a 71-57 victory over South Florida at the Sun Dome on Wednesday night to hold off a USF upset effort.

“(Louisville) Coach (Rick Pitino) just told me before the game to be aggressive, and that’s what I did,” Clark said.

Pitino said Clark helped his team in the second half.

“I told (Clark), as an ex-pro coach, that I’ve always been impressed when I watch basketball of the effort level. The skills are very easy to have,” he said. “The gift is to play hard all the time. When you look at someone like Earl Clark with all those skills, it’s obvious he’s going to be a great basketball player.”

USF (5-9, 0-3) — trailing by eight points with 12 minutes remaining — allowed a five-minute 12-2 Louisville run that ended on a Clark three-pointer, putting the Cardinals up 61-43 with less than five minutes to play.

“They’re going to have those runs and they had two runs in the second half that really stretched the lead on us,” USF Coach Stan Heath said.

The Bulls (5-9, 0-3) went 3-for-3 from the three-point line and only trailed 32-26 at halftime, but Louisville held the Bulls to 1-of-7 shooting from outside in the second half and forced 18 turnovers in the game.

The most disappointing statistic for Heath, however, was USF’s free throw shooting. The Bulls went 14-of-29, while the Cardinals hit 10 of their 14 free throws.

“It’s horrible, 14-of-29,” Heath said. “I mean, that’s just unacceptable — and obviously if you just tack on about eight of those, the lead is a bit different.”

One bright spot for Heath was freshman Augustus Gilchrist, who tied for a team-high 11 points. Sophomore guard Dominique Jones scored 11 points as well.

“I think it’s his first year and he’s learning,” Heath said of Gilchrist. “He’s learning how physical it is out there, he’s learning what a good shot and a bad shot is. I wouldn’t necessarily say he hasn’t learned how to play defense yet, but he has some work to do there.”

Heath said Gilchrist isn’t the only one who’s learning.

“The problem with this league is it’s so good,” he said. “We have to learn from games. We can’t beat ourselves up after a loss, and we’ve got to find what we can do consistently, game to game, that allows us a position to win.”