LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Missouri State guard Keith Pickens was expecting an early strike from defending national champion Louisville.
Sometimes, knowing the punch is coming isn't enough to dodge it.
"We knew it was coming," Pickens said following Missouri State's 90-60 loss Tuesday night to the sixth-ranked Cardinals. "We didn't absorb the first punch very well and it got away from us early."
After taking a 4-3 lead two minutes into the game, the Bears (8-2) failed to score for more than seven minutes during Louisville's 16-0 spurt that put the Cardinals up 19-4 and in control the rest of the way.
Louisville (10-1) combined dominant rebounding and offensive accuracy in the first meeting between the schools since 2006. Montrezl Harrell led Louisville with 17 points and was one of four Cardinals with at least eight rebounds. The foursome alone outdid MSU as part of Louisville's 51-30 edge on the boards.
"They've got a lot a talent but they also play so darn hard," Missouri State coach Paul Lusk said of Louisville. "We just simply couldn't keep them off the glass. That was the telltale of the game."
Louisville also outscored the Bears 46-28 inside and held them to 38 percent shooting to close a 5-0 home stand.
Jarmar Gulley's 14 points led the Bears, whose two-game winning streak was halted by a Cardinals squad that controlled every facet of the game.
Terry Rozier took a rebound coast-to-coast for a layup with 8:06 left in the first half to give Louisville a 29-8 lead. The Bears never got closer than 17 after Louisville's outburst, spoiling Lusk's 100th game as a head coach.
The atmosphere may have played a part in Missouri State's sluggish start. The last time the Bears played a defending national champion was 25 years ago — an 82-73 loss to Kansas on Dec. 30, 1988 — and the 21,335 at the KFC Yum! Center on Tuesday topped the previous MSU attendance mark of 20,172 set during the 1999 NCAA tournament.
"It's got to be a major learning tool for our guys," Lusk said. "I thought we were a little bit on our heels at first, but we've got to grow from it and get better."
Gulley added, "You don't get to do this often. I think it was a real good challenge for us. . If we're planning on trying to make a (postseason) run, this is something we're going to have to go through."
Missouri State brought some impressive credentials into its second meeting against Louisville and first since losing to the Cardinals in the 2006 NIT. The Bears were runners-up to Virginia in the Corpus Christi Challenge, a four-game run that included a win over previously unbeaten Texas A&M.
They also boasted an impressive scoring combination in Gulley and Marcus Marshall, who had combined for nearly 27 points per game coming in and were developing into a strong scoring duo in just four games together. Against the Cardinals, though, they combined for only 22 points as Marshall finished with eight.
MSU's bench was outscored 32-26, 10 points below their average.
Louisville continued to overwhelm MSU, which was outrebounded 20-5 through 13 minutes and 27-10 overall in the first half. The Cardinals shot 55 percent in the first 20 minutes and finished at 52 percent (34 of 66).
Three Missouri State players — Christian Kirk, Ron Mvouika and Emmanuel Addo — fouled out.