CINCINNATI (WDRB) – The race to win the American Athletic
Conference will continue for the next two weeks. Russ Smith guaranteed that.
In the final 1:15 of the game, Smith delivered back-to-back
passes to Montrezl Harrell for dunks. He was not finished. Smith then hit a contested
12-footer with 2.2 seconds to go to give Louisville a 58-57 win at Cincinnati
At 13-2 in AAC play, Cincinnati sits ahead of the 12-2
Cards, but for Louisville the victory balanced the 69-66 victory that the
Bearcats earned at the KFC Yum! Center Jan. 30.
Smith finished with 10 points and five assists. Harrell had
21 points and 10 rebounds.
Cincinnati fans packed Fifth Third Arena for only the second
time this season. Students waved cardboard cutouts of Chane Behanan and Rick
Pitino behind the basket whenever Louisville players went to the free throw
line. Oscar Robertson, the greatest player in the history of Cincinnati
basketball, cheered from his courtside seat.
It didn't matter.
The second half was turbulent for the Cardinals. First Luke
Hancock and then Russ Smith earned their third fouls less than three minutes
into the half. U of L coach Rick Pitino told Hancock to play through his foul
trouble, but put Smith on the bench, letting Chris Jones and Terry Rozier
handle the backcourt.
Jones and Rozier were ready. With the Cards down 30-27,
Jones and Rozier scored the game's next nine points – a jumper by Jones, a
three by Jones, a layup off a steal by Rozier and a layup off a steal by Jones.
Play in the first half was choppy – at best. Cincinnati
missed 25 of 31 shots and scored only 19 points, the fewest points the Bearcats
have scored in a half in 28 games this season.
Center Justin Jackson, their best inside player, drew his
second foul less than three minutes into the game, and Cincinnati lacked any
offensive rhythm without him. The Bearcats had one basket in the paint and
didn't have any fast-break points.
But Louisville failed to take advantage of Jackson's
absence, missing multiple layups and dunks. Montrezl Harrell missed six of
eight shots, most within five feet of the rim. The Cards also struggled from
the foul line, missing six of 11.
Louisville plays host to Temple Thursday before visiting
Memphis on Saturday.