LEXINGTON, Ky. (WDRB) -- It has been three weeks since an opponent came within single digits of the University of Louisville basketball team.
Saturday's NCAA Tournament third-round matchup with Colorado State was, some thought, the day that would come to an end. It wasn't.
Only 10 teams in the country averaged fewer turnovers than the Rams this season. U of L turned them over anyway, 20 times, scoring 24 points off turnovers to demolish Colorado State 82-56. The victory advances U of L to the NCAA's Round of 16, where coach Rick Pitino is 10-0 in his career.
The Cardinals will face either Saint Louis or Oregon on Friday in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
This one was supposed to be a black-and-blue battle between the nation's top rebounding team in CSU and one of its best defensive teams in U of L.
Russ Smith altered the script. He scored 18 first-half points on his way to a game-high 27. Smith was so hot in the first half that LeBron James tweeted, "The lil homie Russ Smith putting on a show right now!"
The venue was painted red by U of L fans, who showed up in near-capacity numbers and were raucous from the opening tip. Colorado State grabbed a quick 8-3 lead, and that was about the only highlight for the rams.
U of L finished the first half with as many made baskets (18) as Colorado State had attempts. At one point, the Rams went five minutes with only three attempts.
They labored to inbound the ball against U of L's press. Then they labored to get past midcourt. Then they struggled to find open shots.
When Colorado State found clean looks, it found them. The Rams shot 47.9 percent for the game, but took 15 fewer shots than the Cardinals.
And the nation's No. 1 rebounding team could not handle U of L on the boards. Seven different U of L players had at least three rebounds and the Cards topped Colorado State 29-24 on the glass.
Montrezl Harrell with 11 points and Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng with 10 each led the Cards, along with Smith.
After the final horn, Pitino threw up the "L" sign at the crowd from the Rupp Arena court.
Read more about U of L's victory at WDRB.com, and watch Tom Lane and Eric Crawford discuss the win on WDRB News at 10.
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