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Doubleblock

Smith’s last-second shot lifts Cardinals past Bearcats, 58-57

By Noah Allison

The Cardinals of this year have needed a spark, a moment where magic is made possible and adopted as a part of the game plan. On Saturday in Cincinnati it finally came, with 2.2 seconds left senior guard Russ Smith hit the game-winning jumper to seal the deal at 58-57.

            Sophomore forward Montrezl Harrell led the Cards with 21 points and ten rebounds in his double-double effort. Freshman guard Terry Rozier was second with his 11 points, also contributing six rebounds and two assists. Smith overall had 10 points, five assists and three steals and rebounds.

            For the number 11 Cardinals, now 23-4, beating the number seven Bearcats gave them their first win against a ranked opponent on the season. All year long the story of the season has been the Cardinals beating the teams they were supposed, and failing to win the marquis match-ups.

            “It was a great win for us, like Connecticut, like Kentucky this was a very difficult crowd to battle,” Pitino said.

            The Cards jumped out to a 21-9 lead mid-way through the first half. The Louisville defense stepped up throughout the game forcing clutch and timely turnovers and keeping the Bearcats out of the paint. UC hit 16 of 56 shots, shooting at 28.6 percent through the game.

            “I gave them the same speech today that I gave them before Wichita State last year. The better defensive team will win the game tonight,” Pitino said. “

            Louisville shot at 40 percent through the game and saw senior forward Luke Hancock and red-shirt freshman Mangok Mathiang foul out. The game was gritty, the crowd was rowdy and it started to have a familiar feel to the four losses the Cardinals have suffered.

            The Cards saw their 21-9 lead dissipate and their second half lead of 47-37 turn into a 53-51 deficit. In the last moments it seemed as if everything could go wrong for the Cards again, but alas, they won.

            Without the game savvy of Hancock available for the last shot it is undoubtedly a moment of growth for this team. Smith made plays that he may not have made in the past.

            “This is my first game winning shot that I can remember,” Smith said. “I don’t think that I’ve ever hit a bigger shot than this. I’ve always been clumsy with the ball or done something ignorant with the ball. I’m just happy down the stretch I was able to make plays. Not the shot, but finding Montrezl two times down the court to keep us in it. That was the maturity I was looking for when I decided to come back.”   

            Pitino’s Cardinals have now won six games in a row. The energy level is rising and the spirit that this team needs is resonating through The Ville. The facial hair of Louisville shall continue growing for another day.

            Russ Smith is a hero, but this team won as a unit. When heads hung, they picked each other up. When somebody needed to make a play, the play was made. For the first time all year, Cardinal fans saw what they’ve seen in the past. A team that in the end; wins.

            “Luke, one of our captains, before the game said that we are going to face adversity. But we have to stick together no matter what happens,” Rozier said. “And that’s what we did.”

Photo by Austin Lassell / The Louisville Cardinal

 

Russdiculous

Pitino’s Cardinals defeat USF 80-54, win fifth game in a row

            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

Freshman guard Terry Rozier scores a career high 16 points in the Cards 102-54 victory over the Rutgers Scarlet Knights.

Cardinals defeat Rutgers 102-54

When Louisville first played Rutgers in New Jersey a little over a month ago, they left with their closest margin of victory on the season. Beating the Scarlet Knights 83-76. When Rutgers re-matched the Cards Sunday night in the KFC Yum! Center, they left with a 102-54 loss.

            We shot the ball well and when you do that and don’t turn it over and play hard, it makes your defense better and you play better in all phases of the game,” Head Coach Rick Pitino said. “I am very excited about the victory. Our guys just nailed their focus. They really pay no attention to whom they’re playing and they just play hard. They aren’t always going to win but they will play their butts off.”

            Senior guard Russ Smith came out and immediately hit a three-pointer, which was followed by three’s from senior small forward Luke Hancock and junior guard Chris Jones. The shots kept falling.

            The Cards shot 56 percent from the field. Seven different players hit from behind the three-point line combining for 16 made three-pointers.

            Hancock scored a career high 25 points, hitting six of eight three’s in the process. He also pulled down six rebounds.

            Freshman guard Terry Rozier hit four three’s and scored a career high 16 points. He also led the team in assists with four and steals with three.

            Sophomore forward Montrezl Harrell led the Cards with nine rebounds and added two blocks.

            The Cards had 23 assists and committed only nine turnovers. They had 11 steals among Rutgers’ 18 total turnovers.

            The Cards have won four in a row and are in the last month of regular season play. To improve team spirits and just simply have fun the players and coaches, including Pitino, are not shaving until they lose a game. Last year the Cardinals ended their season on a 16-game win streak and Pitino held true to his promise of getting a tattoo. Card Nation hopes that the light-hearted magic of Pitino’s antics will work two years in a row.

            “What we try to do in the dog days of February is try to do things that make sure we have fun. People get tired. I told the guys, ‘let’s have some fun.’ February is a tough month. I have never had a beard in my life, not even in college,” Pitino said.

            The beards may be a good thing to adopt because the rest of the Cards’ schedule is more than tough. Road games at Cincinnati, SMU and Memphis and then UConn at home once more will give the Cards plenty of opportunities to clean their faces.

            The Cardinals host USF Tuesday, February 18 at 7:00 pm. 

Cincinnati holds onto victory despite Cardinals’ comeback

Doubleblockcincipic Miscues, breakdowns and a painfully familiar theme in many tough wins and painful losses throughout the season prevailed again to the woe of Card Nation as they lost Thursday night to the University of Cincinnati.

In the last Yum! outing against conference rival Bearcats, the Cards put on a performance that epitomizes the defending champs’ season. Louisville overcame a 17-point second-half deficit, but in the end Cincinnati won 69-66.

“You’ve got to give them a lot of credit because they lost total momentum in the game and good defensive teams can come back and hold on. They shot 63 percent in the second half, which is outstanding. We made really a couple of blunders down the stretch,” U of L Head Coach Rick Pitino said.

UC improves to a 20-2 overall record and a perfect 9-0 record in American Athletic Conference play. U of L fell to a 17-4 record and is 6-2 in AAC play. The Cardinals were led by sophomore power forward Montrezl Harrell who was the top scorer with 18 points, top rebounder with six and two blocked shots. Seniors, guard Russ Smith and forward Luke Hancock each had 16 points, Hancock led the Cards with six assists.

Red-shirt senior guard Sean Kilpatrick led the UC Bearcats offensively. Scoring a total of 28 points and going perfect at the free throw line, hitting 11 of 11 to ice the victory. “We tried to reach in and get steals on Kilpatrick when he’s an 86 percent foul shooter. It’s just uncalled for,” Pitino said. “But give them a lot of credit. They made a lot of big plays.”

The Cards fought back from a perfunctory first half that had them losing 20-28. With 16 minutes left the Cards were down 44-27. A Russdiculous three-point shot with 5:01 finally put the Cards up 64-61 and it seemed like the team everyone knew they could be was turning the corner on the season.

In that run the Bearcats committed nine turnovers due to the Cardinals swarming trap defense. The Cards were scoring on fast break points and attacking the basket successfully. “I think there were positives, anyone can see that. The way we fought and came back, we had a lot of fans behind us, but its something that we need to do for 40 minutes. If we do that we will be a tough team to beat,” freshman guard Terry Rozier said.

The Cards lost the rebounding duel, pulling down 25 to UC’s 36. In the end a few box outs could have made the difference for the Cardinals ability to hold on and later reclaim the lead. The Cardinals rebounding troubles are at the forefront of a long list of their game adjustments they need to straighten up to claim the AAC. But for now there is still enough time to just move on to the next game.

The Cards host the University of Central Florida Knights in the KFC YUM! Center at 9 pm, Saturday night. “We have just got to stay focused, there is nothing we can do. This loss is in the books, we can’t go back and replay a play,” Harrell said. “You take tonight, you think about it, you look at what you did wrong. Tomorrow is a new day, Saturday we play a new team, you can’t change the past.”

PBrown

Q & A with Senior Middle Linebacker Preston Brown

PBrown

 

By: Noah Allison

Q: After fall camp, a long off-season and a BCS Bowl victory, how did it feel to finally

get out there and just get to tackle somebody?

A: It was fun going through our camp getting to hit guys like Dyer and Dom Brown is

fun but you get tired of doing that, so it was good to hit something green today.

Q: Last year U of L led the nation with five games being decided by five points or

less, what is the defenses stance on keeping games from getting close at the end like

last year?

A: Well last year we just got a little comfortable when we had the lead, thinking ‘Ok,

we have the game,’ and we would chill out a little bit and give up leads. But now we

know that we really have to put our foot in the door and cancel out any chance of the

opponent coming back. We did that today and it was great to see it.

Q: Here you are finding yourself the senior leader of this defense, what are your

thoughts about your growth as a player?

A: I’ve grown a lot since getting here my freshman year, I didn’t always know what

was going on but as you grow up in this program with the great coaches we have

you really have no choice but to get better. They do an outstanding job coaching us

so it’s been a lot of fun playing here.

Q: What are the expectations for you and your defense this year?

A: To have a top ten or a top five ranked defense, its fun going out and showing the

world that we can play Defense at Louisville too.

Q: Last year U of L didn’t get a defensive touchdown until Terral Flloyd’s opening

pic-six of the season, is the defense going to improve as a scoring defense this year?

A: I think we have a lot of guys who can get after the ball and force a lot of turnovers,

we only had one today but we had multiple chances at forcing turnovers. They are

going to start coming, we will continue to get better and we will start getting those

turnovers we should be.

Q: Are you confident that the guys up front and the blitz packages will lead to a lot of

Louisvile sacks this season?

A: We have a lot of confidence in our ability to rush the passer because the defensive

backs play tight coverage so the quarterback has to hold the ball. And the five guys

we’ve got up front we know are going to get home. We always have fun rushing the

quarterback so we will see how well we do this year.