Louisville coach Rick Pitino felt his team “gave” the game away against Memphis Thursday night. The Cardinals were obviously down after their loss to Memphis. Pitino wanted them to be “enthusiastic” not only during today’s game against SMU, but also during the practices leading up to it. The enthusiasm showed early as Louisville built a 17 point lead in the first half and then held off a strong SMU team to win 71 – 63.
Today’s game was a matchup of two Hall of Fame coaches who have combined to win 2,554 games and three NCAA championships. This marked the first time Pitino and Larry Brown have faced off at the collegiate level. They have met 17 times in the NBA with Brown holding an 11 – 6 advantage over Pitino.
Pitino changed his starting lineup to feature a more offensive-minded team. He started Luke Hancock in place of Mangok Mathiang. It was a good move offensively as Hancock scored a career high 23 points. He was 8 – 15 from the field and 4 – 9 from three point range.
Russ Smith also scored 23 points for the Cardinals. He finished with a game high 7 assists and 4 steals. Pitino noted the Smith is a much better player with four other potential scorers on the floor as the defense has to pay more attention and will play off of him more.
Montrezl Harrell had a strong game for the Cardinals finishing with 12 points and 13 rebounds. The main knock on Harrell is his poor free throw shooting. He finished 2 – 7 from the line. Louisville finished 11 – 21 from the line for only 52.4 percent.
The main problem with this more offensive minded lineup is rebounding. Louisville was tied at the break in rebounding against SMU. The second half was a much different story as the Mustangs grabbed 13 more rebounds than the Cardinals.
SMU came in to today’s game making 50.2 percent of their field goal attempts good for 6th in the NCAA. They were also ranked 9th in the NCAA in 3 point field percentage at 41.5. Louisville’s defense frustrated the Mustangs for most of the game. SMU shot only 36.9 percent from the field and made only 2 of their 11 three point attempts for 18.2 percent.
SMU’s leading scorer, Sophomore Nick Moore, was held in check finishing with a season low 5 points on 2 – 8 shooting. Louisville’s defense gave him very little room to shoot each time he touched the ball.
Louisville starter Chris Jones went down early in the second half with an injury to his hip and did not return to the game. It is not known yet if the injury is serious enough to miss playing time.
Louisville returns to the KFC Yum Center Thursday night for another ACC matchup against the Houston Cougars at 7:00.