LEXINGTON, Ky. (WDRB) -- You've heard of "Forty Minutes of Hell?"
This was 30 minutes of Garbage Time.
All last summer, Rick Pitino banned pick-up games among his players. If they were going to play, they could only play games to five, to keep the urgency.
But Thursday night in Rupp Arena in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, he could impose no such rule. After cruising to a big early lead and holding No. 16 seed North Carolina A&T to just one field goal in the first 10 minutes, the Cards went into pick-up mode the rest of the way, winning 79-48.
It didn't require much of the lock-down tenacity that got the Cardinals to the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament, but say this for Rick Pitino's team -- when it wanted to go crazy with something, it didn't turn loose on the offensive end.
It perfected the Art of the Steal.
This is how U of L used its leisure time after blowing out to a 25-7 lead against N.C. A&T. It swiped everything in sight. It collected steals wholesale. Russ Smith grabbed eight, the third-most ever for a U of L player in a single game.
As a team, the Cards pilfered 20 steals, unofficially breaking the NCAA single-game record of 19 that was held by two other teams -- one of which was Rick Pitino's 1987 Providence squad.
So great was their preoccupation with the steal that they nearly abandoned everything else for a while.
N.C. A&T made only one of its first eight shots, and the Cardinals pulled out to a 25-7 lead from the jump. After that, the Aggies made 9 of their next 12, leaving Cardinals coach Rick Pitino perturbed at the half -- and beyond.
Not that the issue was ever in doubt. Rather than their usual lock-down defense, the Cards started gambling like Michael Jordan on the golf course. They started trying to steal everything -- and in spurts, they succeeded.
They stole off the press and in the half court, from ball-handlers and in passing games. Silverware came up missing from the media buffet.
Also, has anyone seen my car?
In all, it was the typical 1 vs. 16 beatdown. The Cards gave up only 17 second-half points. They outscored the Aggies 44-16 in the paint, 34-16 off turnovers and 22-8 off the bench. U of L missed only 23 shots in the game. It rebounded 12 of those misses.
Amid the carnage, only two U of L players reached double-figures: Russ Smith with 23 points and Wayne Blackshear with 12. But seven different Cardinals registered a steal, and Peyton Siva dished out eight assists
By game's end, U of L fans were amusing themselves with chants of "Robert Morris" at Rupp Arena. The Cards will face the winner of Thursday's nightcap between Missouri and Colorado State at a time yet to be determined.
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