Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino says Russ Smith has been the undefeated Cardinals'(8-0) most efficient player so far this season, but the sophomore guard might miss Saturday's game against Fairleigh Dickinson (1-7) due to an injury.
Pitino said Smith slept on his neck wrong and now has stiffness and limited mobility in the neck, but Smith said later he believes the source of his neck and upper back problems were falls he has taken in recent games.
"Honestly, I don't know, but I know I took a lot of hard spills against Vanderbilt and the game after that," Smith said. "I've been taking spills the last two weeks and it has just added up. Yesterday we had individual instruction, and after that, my back just sort of gave out and I felt like I couldn't move, and that's when I went to the trainer."
However, Smith wasn't ruling himself out of the 4:07 p.m. game in the KFC Yum! Center, saying, "I'm not sure. I'll still prepare and see see what happens."
Smith scored a career-high 12 points and also had two steals in No. 5/4 UofL's 90-60 win over IUPUI Tuesday. He's seeing about 18 minutes of action per game in relief of point guard Peyton Siva or shooting guard Chris Smith and is shooting 40 percent from 3-point range. If he's unable to play, sophomore Tim Henderson will be the first backcourt sub off the bench.
In other news on the injury front, Pitino said sophomore guard Elisha Justice (broken nose) "is not going to come back any time soon" and that junior forward Stephan VanTreese (knee) may not return this season.
Pitino said Siva, who has been slowed by a concussion and a sprained ankle and missed 30 practices, will be at full strength Saturday for the first time this season.
"I think you'll see a different Peyton Siva," Pitino said.
The game will feature the return of former Cardinal George Goode, a 6-9 forward who played the past three seasons at UofL, then took advantage of an NCAA rule that allowed him to transfer and play a fourth season as a graduate student after completing his undergraduate degree.
Goode is averaging 10.6 points and 7.5 rebounds for Fairleigh-Dickins, where former UofL guard Chris Brickley is in his first season as an assistant coach.
"George was injured quite a bit here and he's healthy now," Pitino said. "He can score, he rebounds, blocks shots and I was real happy that he transferred to Fairleigh-Dickinson because there was no doubt he was going to get a lot of playing time and that was the key in his type of scenario. So we're excited and happy for George. He's in a perfect situation. George is a talented young man."
After the game against the Knights, the Cards will have a week to prepare for their top-25 showdown against No. 21/20 Memphis (5-2 going into Sunday's home game vs. 9-0 Murray State) next Saturday in the KFC Yum! Center.