Russ Smith led the Cards in scoring with 23 points and grabbed eight of Louisville’s NCAA tournament-record 20 steals. The Cardinals also achieved 67 deflections, topping a previous record for the team set against Villanova in the Big East tournament.
“We’re trying to get 35 deflections per game, if you do that you’re going to win 95 percent of your games,” Coach Rick Pitino told The Voice-Tribune outside the locker room following the Cards’ win. “We had 32 with our back court, 66 for the game, which is a record. We set the record the other night against Villanova with 58 and we got 66 (tonight). I’ve never had these things.”
Pitino acknowledged the disparity in talent between the Cards and the Aggies, assuring it’s unlikely Louisville will see another blowout victory in the tournament like that of Thursday night.
In addition to Smith’s outstanding effort for UofL, Peyton Siva dished out eight assists, swiped four steals and scored six points. Stephan Van Treese and Gorgui Dieng led Louisville in rebounding, each with 7. “With our team we’re nine deep, 10 deep, and everybody’s contributing right now,” Siva said. “You see Montrezl go out there and give us some energy, Kevin Ware came out there and gives us some energy, Luke Hancock, Stephan Van Treese. It’s not just our starters. Our bench is capable of coming in there and playing really good. … That is a really big key for us.”
The fan base arguably provided Louisville with a huge boost, as well, on rival Kentucky’s home court, as the traditionally blue Rupp Arena became overwhelmed by a sea of red. The energy of the crowd emanated throughout the venue, with Cards cheers echoing loudly before, during and after the game.
“We feel like we’re home today,” Dieng said of the fan support at Rupp. “You can thank (the fans) that they follow us wherever we will go. There are only a few schools that do that in college basketball. It feels very special to have fans like that.”
Louisville will next face No. 8 seed Colorado State, who beat 9-seed Missouri 84-72 on Thursday night. Though the Cards put on a stunning show against the Aggies, surely lifting Louisville’s confidence, the team is focused on remaining humble heading into each and every game. “We’re just trying to take it one game at a time and not get ahead of ourselves,” said Co-caption Luke Hancock, “preparing every game like it’s a huge game, because it could be your last one.”
Tip-off of the Colorado State-Louisville game is at 5:15 p.m. at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky. The game will be televised on CBS.
Contact writer Ashley Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org, 502.498.2051.
Photos by CHRIS HUMPHREYS | The Voice-Tribune