By Xavier Bleuel–
Louisville crossed over to the win column as they defeated the Pittsburgh Panthers with a 64-61 victory on Monday night, ending Pittsburgh’s four game winning streak. Russ Smith exploded out of the gate, scoring eight of the team’s first 10 points in usual “russdiculous” fashion, taking what seems like the whole team on fast breaks and scoring or drawing the foul. He finished as the games leading scoring with 20 points on 7-of-15 from the floor with five rebounds.
The Cardinals were playing without a starter and two key role players as Wayne Blackshear and Stephan Van Treese were out with injuries while Kevin Ware was suspended. Those losses loomed large, but Tim Henderson, a walk-on, came in a played a solid 14 minutes. Michael Baffour, or “Dark Slime” as Pitino calls him, even came in to play a few minutes.
After the game, Henderson shared his thoughts on his play.
“I was nervous out there,” Henderson admitted, “but once I got going more and more, the more comfortable I got. My mindset was just to play hard.”
Gorgui Dieng mirrored Henderson’s positive outlook.
“I think this win will help us out a lot, and move our confidence up a little bit too,” said Dieng. “We take each game as very important. We are playing for a seed so we just bring it every night.”
The Cardinal front-court came to play as Behanan, Dieng, and Harrell combined for 34 points and 22 rebounds. Pittsburgh did find a way to rally back however, erasing an 11-point deficit as they cut the lead to a basket at 60-58. Dieng and Smith sealed the game with 4 free throws at the end.
After the nail biter versus Pittsburgh, the Cardinals handled Marquette on Sunday afternoon as they dominated the Golden Eagles 70-51 on Sunday at home. All three players that were out of action the game before received a standing ovation upon entering the game off the bench. Louisville fell down 9-1 until Montrezl Harrell entered. The 6”8 235 freshman power forward from Tarboro, North Carolina provided a spark for the Cards with a momentum-shifting slam. U of L proceeded with a 24-9 run.
Marquette’s coach Buzz Williams summed up the Cardinals’ performance in just four words.
“They absolutely smacked us,” Williams said.
The Cardinals outscored Marquette 42-20 in the paint thanks in large part to the 38-26 advantage on the boards.
Russ Smith and Peyton Siva combined for 32 points and 10 assists. The Cards stretched their lead to 53-30 six minutes in to the second half after back-to-back threes by Luke Hancock. The closest the Golden Eagles could get in the second half was 15 points.
The next game for the men’s basketball team will take place at the Louis Brown Athletic Center in Piscataway, Nj. against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights.
Photo: Austin Lassell/The Louisville Cardinal