Kevin Barber drives around the defense of Louisville's Brandon Jenkins during first half.
By CHRIS DUNCAN
AP Sports Writer
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Larry O'Bannon and Nate Daniels scored 17 points apiece as the fourth-ranked Cardinals beat Houston 64-48 for their 16th consecutive victory.
Assistant Kevin Willard coached the Cardinals while Pitino continued getting treated at the Cleveland Clinic for an undisclosed ailment that's caused him pain for months. Pitino announced Monday he was taking an indefinite leave of absence, then said Tuesday he might rejoin his team by this weekend.
The Cardinals (16-1, 6-0 Conference USA) also played without leading scorer Francisco Garcia and point guard Taquan Dean. Garcia sprained his ankle in the Cardinals' win over Tennessee last Sunday and Dean suffered a pulled groin in a practice last week.
Willard said after the game that Pitino talked to the team via speaker phone Wednesday afternoon. He also said Pitino called to wish him luck just before tipoff.
The 28-year-old Willard took his usual seat on the Louisville bench as the game began, leaving Pitino's regular chair empty.
The Cardinals were out of synch early, missing eight of their first 11 shots and coughing up five early turnovers. The Cougars (7-10, 1-5) were no better, starting 4-of-10 from the floor with five turnovers in the first nine minutes.
Willard called a time out with 9:56 left in the opening half and the Cardinals responded with a 23-5 run, taking command with their full-court pressure.
Daniels sank three 3-pointers and O'Bannon added two more during the spurt as the Cardinals settled into a comfortable offensive flow.
Louisville's defense limited the Cougars to three field goals and forced three turnovers over the final six minutes before the break.
Houston had a 7-0 run early in the second half to trim Louisville's 15-point
lead to eight, at 41-33. Willard called another timeout with 14:21 remaining
and the Cardinals answered six straight points.
The Cardinals went the next five minutes without a field goal, but the Cougars never made a serious run, committing four turnovers over that span.
Daniels' 3-pointer from the corner with 5:53 left ended Louisville's field-goal drought and put the Cardinals up 54-38.
Louisville shot a season-low 34.5 percent (19-of-55) and committed 15 turnovers. But the Cardinals scored 20 points off 22 Houston turnovers.
Houston has lost seven of its last eight and fell to 0-5 on the road this season.