NEW YORK -- Louisville coach Rick Pitino reeled off name after name and kept saying his players didn't play well. All those poor individual efforts from the 11th-ranked Cardinals resulted in a 73-58 victory over St. John's on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.
"We did this tonight off our defense," Pitino said of the win that ended a two-game losing streak. "We played really, really hard but not really well. ... It's a product of we have missed so much practice time with injuries. We weren't sharp but the effort was awesome, like the Kentucky game, off the charts. We just haven't been executing. It will come. It's just a matter of time."
Russ Smith scored 17 points, Kyle Kuric had 15 and Gorgui Dieng added 12 for the Cardinals (13-2, 1-1 Big East), who lost to Georgetown and Kentucky last week to drop from fourth to No. 11 in the Top 25.
Louisville came into the game second in the Big East in field goal percentage defense at 36.6 percent. The Red Storm never came near that figure.
The Red Storm missed 25 of 26 shots at one point in the first half and were 5 of 35 (14.3 percent) in falling behind 29-18. They finished 18 of 64 for the game (28.1 percent).
"I think it was a combination of our defense and their shooting," Pitino said. "We did a good job on their shooters and Gorgui did a tremendous job of guarding the rim."
Dieng had nine rebounds and seven of Louisville's 10 blocks.
It wasn't as of the Cardinals were lighting up the place shooting 43.3 percent (26 of 60) for the game.
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D'Angelo Harrison had 24 points for St. John's (7-7, 1-2) and fellow freshman Moe Harkless scored 12.
Louisville trailed 13-12 when it went on a 16-2 run during which St. John's missed all 11 shots from the field and committed three turnovers. Seven players scored the points for the Cardinals in the run.
St. John's assistant coach Mike Dunlap, who is in charge on the bench when head coach Steve Lavin misses a game, was asked what he did when the Red Storm were making just one of 26 attempts in the first-half stretch.
"Get a drink of water. My mouth was dry," he said with a laugh. "You play off the strengths you have. In that half we took some very good shots, point blank, and didn't make them. Give Louisville credit for contesting the others."
St. John's never got closer than 12 points in the second half and the Cardinals led by as many as 26.
"We had every reason to let go of the rope and let it be a 30-point blowout," Dunlap said. "Once the ball wasn't going through the hole we tried to keep it simple."
St. John's committed 14 turnovers against Louisville's pressure defense but Pitino said that wasn't the goal.
"Sometimes the press does things you don't notice," he said. "It doesn't turn you over or present opportunities but it takes the legs out of shooting the ball."
St. John's, which entered the game last in the conference in 3-point shooting at 26.0 percent, finished 2 for 16 from beyond the arc. The Cardinals, 14th in the Big East at 31.4 percent on 3s, were 9 of 22 for the game.
This was the ninth straight game Lavin has missed as he continues to recover from prostate cancer surgery on Oct. 6. Lavin attended the morning shootaround and watched the game from an upstairs suite. He was on the bench for four games this season with the Red Storm going 2-2.
"He talked to us at shootaround," St. John's guard Phil Greene said. "He just told the team to stay together and cherish the moment of playing in Madison Square Garden and to play scrappy and stick together."
Louisville has won six of the last seven meetings between the teams and it leads the all-time series 10-4.