The most Russdiculous game of the young University of Louisville Cardinal season came as a 52 point victory over the University of Missouri Kansas City (4-6). Russ Smith played a career game in the blowout that included excellent play from Luke Hancock and Montrezl Harrell, too. In the end, Kansas City was overmatched, overmanned and out played in all facets of the game, going down to defeat at the hands of the Cards 99-47.
The crowd rooted the reserves on at the end, trying to get #5 Louisville (9-1) over the 100 point mark for the first time since 2010. It came close. That was probably the only failure for the Cards in a game where everything they tried went right.
Smith scored Louisville’s first 8 points and finished the game with a career high 31. He shot 12 of 18 from the field and 3 of 5 from three point territory. The only shaky part of his game came at the free throw line. He shot just just 57% from the line, but made up for that with 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 steals. After the game, coach Rick Pitino praised his sometimes erratic guard. He seemed particularly impressed by how Smith can cause turnovers without committing a foul.
While Smith dominated the game, Hancock turned in his best game at the KFC Yum! Center. He got huge cheers on every made basket. He came out of the game with 15 points, including 2 out of 3 from the three point arc. At one point, when Smith missed on a dunk, the rebound soared right to Hancock deep in the corner. He immediately shot it and drained the three ball. After that, the student section said in unison, “Nice pass, Russ.” It was that kind of game.
The Cards stayed active on defense and the Kangaroos withered under the pressure. If fact, no Kansas City player scored in double figures. Louisville tried new looks to the press and the zone. UMKC couldn’t figure it out. They shot just 40% in the first half and trailed in the game at the intermission 53-28. Coach Pitino challenged his players even further in the locker room and they responded. Kansas City shot an even lower 14.8% in the second stanza.
On the other hand, the Cardinals blistered the nets for 60.6% in the first half and 56.1% for the game. Louisville dominated in the paint, scoring 48 points from in close and they capitalized on turnovers, getting 35 points from their staunch defense. When you force 24 turnovers, it helps to score off them.
Louisville will now use this game as a blueprint to keep other teams confused by their defense because they have a solid challenge coming up next Saturday at Memphis, a team that should give them a significantly more difficult game.
The Cards will probably show the Tigers what Russdiculous means.
Photos: Louisville.com/Tim Girton