U of L won its fifth game in a row Tuesday night after defeating USF 80-54.
Senior guard Russ Smith led the Cardinals in scoring with 19 points, also contributing five rebounds, two assists and two steals.
Senior forward Luke Hancock scored 16 as the Cards maintained the lead through the duration of the game.
The Cards were able to out-rebound USF 36-30, letting the Bulls pull down just six offensive boards. Rebounding has been a point of emphasis on the season and with leading rebounder, sophomore forward Montrezl Harrell, on the bench with foul trouble in the second half the Cards rebounded as a team. Six different guys pulled down at least four rebounds with senior center Stephan Van Treese leading the pack with eight.
“Coach drills it into us everyday to rebound because that’s been the difference in games. That’s how we lost to North Carolina, how we lost to Kentucky and Cincinnati; rebounds. So that got drilled into us and we rebound as a group now,” junior guard Chris Jones said.
The Cards go on the road to face top ten-ranked opponent Cincinnati on Saturday at noon. The last loss Louisville has suffered was six games ago to UC in the Yum! Center.
“I don’t like how they acted after they beat us, so that is still in the back of our minds,” Jones said. “We want to get them back, it’s going to be a big game on Saturday and it would be nice to finally beat a ranked opponent. I think our defense has gotten better so hopefully we can pull this out, we are confident we can win.”
There is a buzz about this team that has not yet been felt this season. Despite still not having a signature win the Cards new found energy and late season improvement has the confidence level, and the expectations high.
“We should be good, we have confidence in our offensive and defensive ability. But we just want to go into this game like any other game and work for a victory,” Smith said. Smith had 16 points in the loss to Cinci and his potential game winning lay-up rimmed in and out at the end.
The Cards are improving at the right time of year and Saturday will be a true statement as to this Louisville team’s expectations come tournament time.
“We know what’s coming, we have already been to two extremely hostile places with Kentucky and Connecticut and we are going to go into three hostile places with Cincinnati, SMU, and Memphis. It will be very good for us to get us tournament ready. We are starting to play the right type of basketball right now with a high number of assists and low number of turnovers, by in large, pretty good defense,” Head Coach Rick Pitino said.
“February is the time to get better and March is the time to win.”
Photo by Austin Lassell / The Louisville Cardinal