- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 23, 2014

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Even on Wayne Blackshear’s few misses, his shot looked smooth enough for him to continue shooting.

The senior forward’s confidence provided a red-hot start culminating in the tuneup No. 4 Louisville needed with a huge showdown looming Saturday against top-ranked Kentucky.

Blackshear hit his first seven shots en route to a career-high 31 points that helped the Cardinals blow past Cal State Northridge 80-55 on Tuesday night.

“I was lucky I was hitting tonight,” said Blackshear, who made 11 of 17 from the field. “You just have to have confidence in yourself. For me tonight, I was out there early and got off some shots, lot of reps and it paid off.”

After a five-point effort Saturday at Western Kentucky, Blackshear made four 3-pointers en route to scoring 16 of Louisville’s first 21 points. The senior matched his previous career best of 23 points by halftime of a game the Cardinals (11-0) played without suspended junior forward Montrezl Harrell.

Harrell, a preseason All-America selection, was suspended one game by the Atlantic Coast Conference following a flagrant-2 foul and ejection at WKU. Louisville didn’t miss him, shooting 47 percent from the field in its prelude to facing the Wildcats.

Blackshear had a lot to do with setting the tone.

“I said, ‘you are going to get the ball, you are going to do a lot of things tonight,’ Louisville coach Rick Pitino said in a postgame interview that he cut short because of illness. “This is over, you feeling sorry for yourself. You are going to go out tonight and kick (butt).’ “

Blackshear’s six straight points during a 17-1 run over 3:36 in the second half were critical in putting away the Matadors (3-10), who got within 51-43 and were trying to make it a three-possession game. He went on to give Louisville 30-point scorers in back-to-back games, adding six rebounds.

Terry Rozier, whose career-high 32 points at WKU earned ACC player of the week honors, followed up with 16. Chris Jones and sophomore reserve guard David Levitch added nine points each for the Cardinals, who made a season-best 11 3-pointers on 27 attempts.

Stephen Maxwell had 20 points and 11 rebounds and Stephan Hicks 19 points for the Matadors, who shot 33 percent in losing for the eighth time in nine games.

Outside shooting has been a season-long concern for Louisville, but Blackshear quickly quieted that issue by smoothly nailing his early attempts from behind the arc to put the Cardinals up by double digits and 36-25 at the break. CSUN didn’t wilt and stayed close for about 25 minutes thanks to several small runs, the last of which put the Matadors within three possessions before Louisville awoke with a run that sealed the victory and led several small groups of fans to start yelling, “Beat UK!”

“I thought that when the energy levels were the same, we competed extremely well,” CSUN coach Reggie Theus said of his team that lacks depth. “It was an 8-point game with 16 minutes to go. I don’t give this an excuse, but when you only have seven guys, they make mistakes when they get tired and the effort level changes.”

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BYSTANDER

Watching in street clothes was the suspended Harrell, whose absence caused a lineup change resulting in 6-foot-10 duo Mangok Mathiang and Chinanu Onuaku starting alongside each other. They combined for eight points, 10 rebounds and six of Louisville’s 11 blocks that matched a season high.

ASSISTANTS’ REUNION

Theus was a Louisville assistant from 2003-05 and was part of the Cardinals team that reached the 2005 Final Four. … Seated behind Louisville’s bench was Pitino’s son Richard, another ex-Cards assistant in his second season as Minnesota’s head coach.

TIP-INS

CSU Northridge: The Matadors matched the Cardinals in rebounding (36-36) but committed 20 turnovers leading to 21 Louisville points.

Louisville: The Cardinals’ 27 3-pointers were just two behind the 29 taken against Ohio State.

UP NEXT:

CSU Northridge: Hosts Stephen F. Austin on Monday.

Louisville: Hosts No. 1 Kentucky on Saturday.

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