The AAC leading Louisville Cardinals did what no other team had done this season Wednesday evening, and silenced the usual rowdy and boisterous crowd at Moody Coliseum with an 84-71 win. The game featured several scoring runs, sharp shooting and even a few upheaval’s from Russ Smith, and I’m not talking about his crazy shots he’s known for.
Rick Pitino’s Cardinals fell behind by as many as 14 points but were able to dig in deep, come up with big stops and pull out a hard fought win over the No.18 SMU Mustangs. The aforementioned Smith had been feeling ill all day but fought back the urge to sit out and was a huge reason the Cards won the game. His performance landed him not only in my version of “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” but also cemented himself firmly in the elite upper echelon of Cardinal greats and further polished his legacy.
The Good – It would be hard to find any argument in giving this spot to Russ Smith’s performance. After a putrid first half where he only hit one of his first five shots and finished with four points, the Brooklyn native threw up not only his lunch in the second stanza but also six 3-pointers and 22 points. Pitino said of Smith’s performance,
“He just came through in such a big way. That was a Michael Jordan-type performance in terms of being sick and gutting it out.”
The Bad – Louisville got off to a horrible start and put themselves in a deep hole which is obviously not ideal especially in a rowdy environment where a team is 15-0 on the season. The Cards had six turnovers in the first 7:49 of play and trailed 15-5. That kind of start will get you an “L” most nights and not the kind Cards fans like to throw up with their thumb and forefingers.
The Ugly – SMU’s play in the last 7:04 of the first half. For a team that was doing so well int he first 13 minutes, they sure stunk it up in the last seven. The Mustangs had nine turnovers, four by Nick Russell, and missed their only three shot attempts to close the half, allowing the Cards to take a 32-30 lead into intermission. Credit Louisville with good defense and capitalizing in their opportunities but there’s no denying that SMU played some ugly basketball to close the half.