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Russ Smith usatoday

Owls are considered some of the smartest birds in the animal kingdom but the ones from Temple were unable to figure out the high-flying moves of the Cardinals Thursday night in Louisville. Kentucky’s state bird flew supreme and looked to be the birds of prey in the 88-66 win.

Russ Smith usatoday 224x300 Cards pluck the Owls, not their beards in 88 66 win

Photo – USA Today
Russ Smith played a complete game and led all scorers with 24 points

Just like the first meeting between the two, Louisville sprinted out to a big lead, 13-2, behind Russ Smith’s nine points and two points each from Montrezl Harrell and Chris Jones. The Cards got some great play early from several guys and turned two defensive rebounds from Mangok Mathiang into five points, two from Terry Rozier and a three from Luke Hancock to go up 22-6 at the second media timeout. Temple was without the AAC’s leading rebounder in Anthony Lee who had a bum toe but the way the Cards were shooting, his presence wouldn’t have had much of an impact in the outcome.

Temple was able to muster a slight run of their own and pull within nine at 30-21 with 5:30 to go but Harrell and Rozier decided to clip the Owls’ wings and push their lead back to 38-21 in the next two minutes. Harrell got a friendly bounce and roll from the rim on a 13-foot jumper and Rozier drained two 3-pointers in consecutive possessions. During the spurt, Stephan Van Treese and Harrell each came up with huge offensive rebounds that led to those triples. Temple battled to get within 42-29 at the half.

The Owls struck first in the second half with Quenton DeCosey free throws to get within 11 at 42-31 but they were unable to get any closer to the ultra-quick Cardinals. After 3-pointers from Hancock and Rozier and a jumper by Smith, Harrell got behind the defense and after an outlet pass from Rozier, he emphatically slammed home another two points to make it 53-35, prompting a Temple timeout with 15:20 to go.

Smith and Harrell continued to be thorns in the Owls sides and by the 8:00 mark they had chipped in another nine and seven points respectively and helped soar the lead to 75-48. Every time you turned around or maybe glanced in the mirror at your beard, somebody in a red and white uniform was either hitting a jumper, stealing the ball or grabbing a rebound.

Montrezl Harrell 300x300 Cards pluck the Owls, not their beards in 88 66 win

Photo – AP
Montrezl Harrell scored 21 Thursday against the Owls

Rick Pitino’s team played like a top 10 team in all facets of the game tonight, if not top five. Russ was classic Russ, Harrell looked like a lottery pick, Rozier continued his emergence into a superstar and Hancock was back to “cool hand Luke”, hitting 3-4 from deep. With 8:22 left, Louisville was shooting 27-47 (54.4%) while holding the inept Owls to 17-45 (37.8%) from the field and 46.7% to 18.8% from three point range.

Louisville finished the beat down shooting  32-60 (53.3%) from the floor including 8-20 (40%) from 3-point range and limited Temple to 24-57 (42.1%) from the field and 4-19 (21.1%) from three. Not unusual, the Cards were out rebounded 34-33 even without Temple’s and the AAC’s best rebounder in the aforementioned Lee. Louisville won the steal battle 13-7 and had eight more assists, 17-9.

Russ Smith led all scorers with 24 points while Harrell added 21 and Rozier had 19. Will Cummings and Quenton DeCosey paced the Owls with 18 and 17 points respectively. Stephan Van Treese, Harrell and Wayne Blackshear tied for the team lead in rebounds with six each while Chris Jones dished out eight assists and only one turnover to go with his nine points.

Complete box score: http://scores.espn.go.com/ncb/boxscore?gameId=400497019