BOZICH | Smith Dominates as Louisville Wins in Return of Hancock - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Smith Dominates as Louisville Wins in Return of Hancock, Behanan

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Russ Smith scored 30 points, one less than his career high, to lead Louisville past Hofstra. Russ Smith scored 30 points, one less than his career high, to lead Louisville past Hofstra.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Luke Hancock came back. Chane Behanan came back, too. Kevin Ware did not come back, at least not on the court. Chris Jones directed. Russ Smith dominated.

The University of Louisville moved to 2-0 this season by dispatching Hofstra, 97-69, at the KFC Yum! Center Tuesday night.

On the night when Rick Pitino finally had all the essential working parts dressed on the University of Louisville bench, Smith reminded everybody that he can score whenever he wants to score.

Smith learned he made the pre-season Top 50 watch list for the John Wooden National Player of the Year Award Tuesday afternoon. Save a space for him at the top of the rankings. He deserves it.

"He's unguardable," Pitino said.

Smith finished with 30 points, one under his career high. He equaled his career-best by making five three-point shots, another sign of the work he has done on his perimeter shot.

Smith distributed five assists. He smiled and deflected all credit. He wore a stocking hat after the game with his nickname -- Smitty -- stitched across the front. Smith looked like a guy thrilled with his decision to play his senior year of college basketball.

"I was just getting open looks," Smith said. "The ball movement was really good. It was just one of those games. A lot of guys on our team are capable of having games like this. I really want to credit my teammates."

Smith had 21 in the first half. He only had nine in the second half, but he sat for the final nine-plus minutes. Smith's second-half points came when it mattered. Same thing for Jones, whom Pitino credited for steadying the Cardinals after an early second-half burp.

Hofstra started the second half shooting three-pointers like Hancock. The Pride made their first four threes and seven of their first nine shots, cutting Louisville's 46-31 halftime lead to 54-49.

Smith and Jones had seen enough. Jones made a three-point play and a lay-up. Then he found Wayne Blackshear for an open three-pointer.

Smith made a pair of baskets to push Louisville's lead back to 17 and then delivered assists on the next two plays – a Montrezl Harrell dunk and three-pointer by Blackshear.

Harrell finished with 19 points, also one less than his career best. Jones had 20 points. But that is not the statistic of the night. Jones has not turned the ball over once during the Cards' first two games.

"I just heard I had zero," Jones said.

Jones also has a dozen assists, seven of them Tuesday night. Not a bad introduction to a defending national championship team for a guy who was in junior college one year ago.

"I didn't know until today," Jones said. "I'm usually a low turnover guy. Having Terry (Rozier), Anton (Gill) and Russ on my team make it easier because I don't have to do everything. Not doing too much. Just keep it simple. If you keep it simple, you won't have any turnovers."

Long before the Cards' 35-2 run was finished, Louisville fans could resume checking their smart phones for the score of the Kentucky-Michigan State game.

COOL HAND LUKE – Hancock made his official return to the court 3:15 into the first half, subbing in for Blackshear. After missing both exhibition games as well as the season opener against College of Charleston with a sore left ankle and Achilles, Hancock played with four black strips of medical tape on his lower leg.

Hancock delivered his first trademark shot, a three-pointer from the left corner, at 11:35. He then missed a fadeaway three from the top of the key.

Hancock played 15 minutes, scoring eight points while making two of three three-point attempts.

"It felt good," Hancock said. "It felt 100 percent. I felt good about them playing mostly zone. I was mostly trying to help out on defense and do little things.

"I was worried I was going to start it out like last year (missing three-pointers). It's going to be a lot like last year, just playing off Russ and Chris, like Russ and Peyton (Siva)."

Hancock said he could not remember the last time he scrimmaged. He's been working out individually or with assistant coaches and student managers. He's uncertain how much he will practice.

"I don't really know what the plan is," Hancock said. "I feel great right now. I'm just going to try to build on it. I have no pain."

INDEFINITE SUSPENION DEFINITELY ENDS – Behanan followed Hancock onto the floor about 4 ½ minutes later to applause, but not nearly the ovation that greeted Hancock. It was Behanan's first appearance since he was suspended indefinitely by Rick Pitino on Oct. 17.

Behanan scored four points with only one rebound in 14 minutes. Behanan was in the locker room after the game, but off limits to the media.

HALL OF FAME MOMENT – Another game, another banner raising for the Cardinals. Louisville raised a banner in the south end of the arena honoring Rick Pitino for his September induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Pitino's name is on the banner along with former U of L coach Denny Crum, inducted in 1994, and former Cardinals all-American Wes Unseld, inducted in 1988.

After a five-minute video of Pitino career highlights played, U of L athletic director Tom Jurich thanked Pitino for his work. He ended his remarks by telling Pitino he was only "two years away" from his prime. He presented Pitino with a framed collage of pictures from his career.

UP NEXT – The Cards welcome a visitor from the Ivy League – Cornell – Friday at 7 p.m. in the KFC Yum! Center. The Big Red program was the powerhouse in the Ivy League four years ago. Then coach Steve Donahue left for Boston College. Cornell finished 13-18 last season and has lost its first two games this season – by 22 at Syracuse and by four in overtime at home against Loyola (Maryland) Sunday. Cornell plays a home game against Binghamton Wednesday.

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