LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville keeps adding healthy players. Now, the fifth-ranked Cardinals must learn to play together.
Chris Smith matched his personal best with 19 points to go over 1,000 for his career and Louisville beat IUPUI 90-60 on Wednesday night for the Cardinals' 16th straight victory at home.
"We have a lot left to learn right now. We put in one system just to try and win and survive and now we're putting in another system to pick up the up-tempo and do other things," said Louisville coach Rick Pitino, who acknowledged he was in a foul mood after a lackluster first-half performance. "Now we're making the next transition and it's going to take a little time to learn all this."
Gorgui Dieng hit all eight of his shots to set a career high with 18 points to go along with 12 rebounds as the Cardinals started 8-0 for the second straight season.
Louisville's schedule hasn't been too difficult with only one road game so far before the Cardinals travel to face No. 1 Kentucky in a Dec. 31 showdown.
"We played horrible today," Smith said. "He has a right to be in a foul mood. We came out, wasn't really ready to play and we're not a team that can do that."
In the meantime, they're continuing to get healthier with the return of forward Rakeem Buckles.
He hadn't played since tearing a ligament in his right knee in February and had a three-point play during a key 15-0 second half run that sealed the victory.
Stephen Thomas led IUPUI (2-8) with 14 points.
The Cardinals are still missing forward Wayne Blackshear (right shoulder), guard Elisha Justice (broken nose), Stephan Van Treese (left knee) and Mike Marra (left knee). Blackshear and Justice should return in the coming weeks, while Van Treese and Marra are out indefinitely.
The Cardinals hadn't played since beating then-No. 20 Vanderbilt in overtime on Friday night and IUPUI stayed within striking distance through the first 5 minutes of the second half when Thomas hit a 3-pointer that cut Louisville's lead to 50-45.
But Russ Smith hit two free throws, then made a layup off a pass from Dieng in transition and Buckles scored his first points of his season on a three-point play during a 15-0 run that included a steal and slam by Chane Behanan that made it 65-45 with 10:39 left.
Buckles said it's a different environment than practice.
"Being in a real game setting where you have to rely on your teammates and stuff, it was a lot different," Buckles said.
After the Jaguars ended the run, Chris Smith converted a four-point play after hitting a 3 and the Cardinals' biggest lead was the final margin. Smith was walk on at Louisville after playing two seasons at Manhattan, where he scored 596 points and made 41 starts. He now has 1,011 points in his career.
"It's a good number, but it's not one of my long term goals," Smith said. "If I score that's OK. I'm looking out more for the team and if we win."
Russ Smith added 12 points and Kyle Kuric had 11 for Louisville.
IUPUI's seniors were all on the bench to start the game, including Alex Young, the Summit League preseason player of the year who came in averaging 18.7 points. Young's absence from the starting lineup ended an 80-game streak since his freshman year. He finished with nine points.
"I love those kids to death and we needed something to get them going," said IUPUI coach Todd Howard, a former walk-on at Louisville. "We've been very pleased with their effort in practice. Just the game setting, we just haven't gotten off to good starts. Then you start to press and it's almost like that hitting slump - it's tough to get out of."
IUPUI, which includes five players from Kentucky, held an early 7-6 lead before struggling against Louisville's pressure. The Cardinals went on an 11-2 run after the Jaguars missed three of four shots and committed three turnovers.
IUPUI committed 20 turnovers in the game and shot 26 percent in the second half.
On one sequence, Russ Smith made a pair of steals, dunking on one and finding Chris Smith on a bounce pass for a layup to finish another that gave the Cardinals a 23-11 lead midway through the first.
But IUPUI hit four 3-pointers — two by Thomas and one each by Young and Sean Esposito to tie it and stayed close early into the second half.Comment on this story
"They're playing as well as anyone," Howard said of Louisville. "Twenty-seven minutes in it's a six-point game and we were right there. We got a little fatigued. You're running into Big East, BCS-level size and depth."
Louisville, which has climbed the rankings since starting ninth in the preseason poll, plays Fairleigh Dickinson on Saturday and takes a week off before facing No. 21 Memphis on Dec. 17.
"I thought it was a tale of two halves, I thought the second half we played good defense and passed the ball," Pitino said. "In the first half, I thought we were selfish and didn't play good defense."