While every sports media organization spent their day trying to get football coach Charlie Strong hired away from the University of Louisville, basketball coach Rick Pitino took his Cardinals on the road to the College of Charleston. This counts as their first real road game for Louisville because they played on someone elses home court. The Cards had an easy time of it, unlike the previous versus Northern Illinois, winning the game going away 80-38.
The full court press gave Charleston fits and enabled Louisville to jump out to the early lead. It also forced the Cougars to use all of the shot clock on the majority of their possessions. That limited their shot opportunities.
Meanwhile the Cards took advantage of points off turnovers which helped because they didn't look particularly sharp on offense, especially in the first half. However, that didn't stop Russ Smith and his dribble penetration. He continued to attack the paint and draw fouls and capitalized by knocking down most of those free throw opportunities. The Cards went up by as many as 23 before halftime. Charleston finished the first half with 16 points, 16 rebounds and 16 turnovers.
And as the halftime talk centered on football coaching hires for Arkansas and Auburn, two jobs that sports pundits kept trying to give to Charlie Strong, the next rumor started swirling about Strong becoming the front runner for the Tennessee job. Cardinal fans needed something to smile about.
Louisville provided that by playing like the fifth ranked team they are. The Cards came out of the locker room ice cold on the offensive end, but maintained the defensive pressure until the shots started falling again. And fall they did. Wayne Blackshear lead all Cardinals scorers with 18, including 3 three point goals.
Russ Smith scored 13 and, perhaps more importantly for coach Pitino, created 4 turnovers and dished 4 assists. Pitino think Smith can be the best player in the country when he learns to pass. Russ took a couple of baby steps in that direction.
Photo: Louisville.com/Tim Girton
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