The 11th-ranked Louisville Cardinals came into Saturday night’s tilt with No. 7 Cincinnati winners of five straight and nine of their past ten games. Their last loss was against Cincinnati at the KFC Yum Center on January 30. Thanks to Russ Smith, the Cardinals got a much needed signature win.
Smith nailed the game winner with 2.2 seconds remaining off of a pass from Terry Rozier. Smith caught the ball and lofted and 18-foot jumper over the outstretched arms of Cincinnati forward, Titus Rubles, giving the Cardinals a 58 – 57 win.
“Honestly, it felt really good leaving my hands,” said Smith. Smith had a difficult day on the offensive end, scoring only 10 points on 3 – 10 shooting. However, he did affect the game in other areas getting five assists, grabbing three rebounds, and getting three steals.
Montrezl Harrell continued his strong play scoring 21 points and getting 10 rebounds. Louisville made a concerted effort to get the ball to Harrell throughout the game as he shot a team high 16 times. The only knock on this day for Harrell was once again his free throw shooting. Harrell was 5 – 12 from the line.
The game was reminiscent of the Louisville versus Cincinnati games in the 90’s and early 2000’s with Bob Huggins as the Bearcats’ coach. Those games were always some of the more physical games the Cardinals played in. Saturday’s game did not disappoint. “This is the type of game I like,” said Harrell in reference to the physicality of the game.
Sean Kilpatrick led Cincinnati with 28 points, but needed 26 shots. He was only 3 – 14 from three point range. Kilpatrick made 8 field goals while the rest of the Bearcats made a combined 7 for the game.
Rick Pitino said of the Cardinals’ defense, “Defense makes the difference. Play defense, play your butts off on defense, and they did today.” Cincinnati shot only 28.6 percent from the field and committed 13 turnovers to Louisville’s nine. They hit only 5 – 20 from three point range.
Louisville improved their record to (23 – 4, 12- 2). More importantly, the win ties them with Cincinnati in the loss column in the AAC. Cincinnati fell to (24 – 4, 13 – 2).
Louisville returns to the KFC Yum Center Thursday at 9:00 to face the Temple Owls. On February 14 Louisville throttled the Owls 82- 58.