PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) — Sophomore forward Wayne Blackshear is giving No. 11 Louisville a lift off the bench and starting to get coach Rick Pitino excited.
Blackshear scored a career-high 19 points and hit a 3-pointer to ignite a 23-2 run early in the second half that carried the Cardinals (19-4, 7-3 Big East) to a 68-48 victory over Rutgers on Wednesday.
Blackshear hit 7 of 11 shots from the field, including three from long range in just 14 minutes.
"I think right now he has improved his shooting tremendously," Pitino said after the Cardinals beat Rutgers (12-9, 3-7) for the seventh straight time.
"The last hurdle for him was putting the ball on the deck and getting better with his handle so he can run picks and rolls. Once he gets that; (he's a) great defender, rebounder and really good pass and smart kid, once he gets that, look out. He is going to be a hell of a player."
Blackshear not only has improved the arc on his shot since coming to Louisville, he also had a chance over the past week to look at his game after spraining his right shoulder in practice. He watched tapes and saw he was settling for too many 3-pointers.
"When I came back to practice I was in a different mode," Blackshear said. "I started attacking and it carried over to both games.
Blackshear had nine points, four rebounds and two steals in a win over Marquette this past weekend, and he was even better against Rutgers, although he had a lot of help in the second half.
Russ Smith added 14 points and six rebounds and fellow guard Peyton Siva had nine points and seven assists as the Cardinals held Rutgers to a season-low point total.
It was the seventh time they have held an opponent under 50 points this season.
"We just put the pressure on those guys," Smith said. "We came out lax early, so the second half coming out of the locker room, we decided to turn up the energy a little bit."
Gorgui Deng added eight rebounds and six blocked shots as Louisville beat Rutgers for the 11th time in 12 meetings.
Eli Carter had 13 points and Myles Mack 12 to lead Rutgers (12-9, 3-7). The Scarlet Knights have lost five in a row and six of seven.
Louisville, which had lost three in a row before its current winning streak, blew the game open in the first eight-plus minutes of the second half, taking a 21-point lead.
"I think we have a long ways to go still," Siva said. "This is the Big East and you can go on a three-game losing streak whenever. We just got to continue to keep our heads straight and focus on the next game."
Wally Judge tied the game at 28 for the Scarlet Knights with a dunk on their first possession, and then it was all Louisville.
Blackshear, who twice scored 18 points this season, broke the tie with a 3-pointer and Siva quickly stretched the lead to six with another long-range shot.
Rutgers, which went 4:07 without a point, saw Blackshear add two free throws to push the lead to 36-28. Chane Behanan made it nine with a free throw and then Smith and Siva had steals in the backcourt to set up two free throws by Smith and a rebound follow by Dieng for a 41-28 advantage.
Austin Johnson ended the drought for Rutgers with an uncontested layup before Louisville scored the next 10 points. Siva started the run with a layup, Montrezl Harrell scored on an alley-oop dunk and Luke Hancock and Smith closed the run with 3-pointers for a 51-30 lead.
Rutgers coach Mike Rice wasn't sure what caused his team's slow start at the beginning of the second half.
"Louisville, that's who they are, they're a top 10 team in the country," Rice said. "I think they're a Final Four team, but as I looked at shot chart we missed four layups in the first four minutes and after Wally's missed dunk, we just (committed) turnovers. Our guards had a couple of sloppy, careless turnovers."
That was enough for Rutgers fans, who started to leave the arena with less than 12 minutes to play. Louisville led by as many as 25 in the closing minutes.
Blackshear scored seven straight points to help the Cardinals jump to a 12-4 lead and they eventually led 28-26 after a sloppy first half.
What was surprising was that the Cardinals led despite getting only seven points from Smith and Peyton on 2 of 7 shooting.
Carter kept Rutgers in the game, scoring 11 points on 4 of 9 shooting. The rest of the team made only five other baskets in the half.