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February 18, 2014

Cards bust Bulls in a highlight show

No. 5/11 Louisville beat USF 80-54 in what turned out to be a highlight show of spectacular dunks and nifty plays. Louisville's Montrezl Harrell set Louisville's single-season dunk record, Luke Hancock had a SportsCenter Top 10-worthy drive and dunk and freshman Terry Rozier made the crowd ooh and aah with a fake-behind the back lay-up. USF was crushed by 26 points, but Bull Victor Rudd had several highlight dunks among his 27 points.

"We're better than South Florida, don't get me wrong, we were better than some of the teams like Houston, but it's the way you play those teams that is impressive," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "... There were a lot of good things without question."

USF was only within striking distance of the Cardinals for the first eight minutes. Up 19-12 with 12:55 left, Louisville went on an 11-2 run to push ahead 30-14 by the 8:34 mark. After USF cut Louisville's lead to 34-25 two minutes later, Louisville swamped the Bulls with a 9-0 run and never led by less than 12 points the rest of the way.

The Cardinals led by 26 points five times in the second half, and emptied the bench in the final five minutes. Both coaches agreed that Louisville's defense and rebounding won the day as the Cardinals finished with 26 more shot attempts than USF, the second largest advantage of the season.

"We had enough possessions tonight, it was a possession game," Pitino said. "Even though they were shooting a very high percentage in the first half, they only got 19 shots off. ... You can look at the percentage, but you can look at the amount of shots in the first half, and it was 35-19. And it ended up with 71-45. That was the difference in the game."

"That's a really good basketball team," USF coach Stan Heath said of Louisville. "I don't think we played poorly, I just think they're really good. ... They come at you in so many different ways. It's just really hard to get a rhythm going. ... They really just beat us at a game of possessions. They get 71 shots and we get 45, how do they do it? Offensive rebounds and your turnovers, it's a huge discrepancy in those areas."

RUSS MOVES UP
With 19 points against USF, Smith moved into 10th place on Louisville's career scoring leaderboard with 1,697 points. He surpassed Billy Thompson's 1,685 points (1982-86) and Wes Unseld's 1,686 points (1965-68). Smith needs 27 points to pass Herbert Crook for ninth place in Louisville history. Crook scored 1,723 points from 1984-88.

"We can't say Russ is as good as Westley Unseld... You weren't born when Westley played," Pitino said. "Wes Unseld used to take the ball off the rim and throw it almost three quarter court on an outlet pass. We're talking about one of the greatest 50 players of all time at 6-7 or 6-8. So he's one of the greatest Louisville basketball players ever. That doesn't diminish how good Russ Smith is."

Smith has scored in double digits in 25 of 26 games this season with his only blemish on that record coming Sunday against Rutgers. He led the Cardinals in scoring for the 12th time this season.

"I just want to do whatever I can to help my team win," Smith said. "If they need me to defend, I'll go out and set the steals record. If they need me to score, I'll score. If they need me to pass, I'll do that, too."

Pitino continues to push Russ as the best player in college basketball.

"When you look at Russ' resume: two back-to-back Big East Championships, two back-to-back Final Fours, a national championship. Pretty tough to top that resume, that's why I think if the Knicks would draft him, I think they would really improve."


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