Russ Smith led the Cards in scoring with 23 points and grabbed eight of Louisvilleâ€™s NCAA tournament-record 20 steals. The Cardinals also achieved 67 deflections, topping a previous record for the team set against Villanova in the Big East tournament.
â€œWeâ€™re trying to get 35 deflections per game, if you do that youâ€™re going to win 95 percent of your games,â€ Coach Rick Pitino told The Voice-Tribune outside the locker room following the Cardsâ€™ win. â€œWe had 32 with our back court, 66 for the game, which is a record. We set the record the other night against Villanova with 58 and we got 66 (tonight). Iâ€™ve never had these things.â€
Pitino acknowledged the disparity in talent between the Cards and the Aggies, assuring itâ€™s unlikely Louisville will see another blowout victory in the tournament like that of Thursday night.
In addition to Smithâ€™s outstanding effort for UofL, Peyton Siva dished out eight assists, swiped four steals and scored six points. Stephan Van Treese and Gorgui Dieng led Louisville in rebounding, each with 7. â€œWith our team weâ€™re nine deep, 10 deep, and everybodyâ€™s contributing right now,â€ Siva said. â€œYou see Montrezl go out there and give us some energy, Kevin Ware came out there and gives us some energy, Luke Hancock, Stephan Van Treese. Itâ€™s not just our starters. Our bench is capable of coming in there and playing really good. … That is a really big key for us.â€
The fan base arguably provided Louisville with a huge boost, as well, on rival Kentuckyâ€™s home court, as the traditionally blue Rupp Arena became overwhelmed by a sea of red. The energy of the crowd emanated throughout the venue, with Cards cheers echoing loudly before, during and after the game.
â€œWe feel like weâ€™re home today,â€ Dieng said of the fan support at Rupp. â€œYou can thank (the fans) that they follow us wherever we will go. There are only a few schools that do that in college basketball. It feels very special to have fans like that.â€
Louisville will next face No. 8 seed Colorado State, who beat 9-seed Missouri 84-72 on Thursday night. Though the Cards put on a stunning show against the Aggies, surely lifting Louisvilleâ€™s confidence, the team is focused on remaining humble heading into each and every game. â€œWeâ€™re just trying to take it one game at a time and not get ahead of ourselves,â€ said Co-caption Luke Hancock, â€œpreparing every game like itâ€™s a huge game, because it could be your last one.â€
Tip-off of the Colorado State-Louisville game is at 5:15 p.m. at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky. The game will be televised on CBS.
Contact writer Ashley Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org, 502.498.2051.
Photos by CHRIS HUMPHREYS | The Voice-TribuneÂ