Louisville advanced to its 20th Sweet 16 in program history (3 in a row), in Orlando’s AmWay(ne) Center over a very tough St. Louis Billiken team. The Cards handed SLU its worst loss of the year, by 14 , a schedule which included the Wichita State Shockers and the Wisconsin Badgers. The win also moved UofL Basketball’s post-season record to 22-1 over the past 23 tilts.
Russ Smith struggled offensively for the 2nd consecutive game dealing with a jammed thumb & a sore back and will use 6 days off to rehab before Louisville’s Sweet 16 match-up in Indianapolis on Friday. Russdiculous finished with 11 points on 3-10 shooting with 7 assists and 7 turnovers. Russ was not himself in the opening weekend on the NCAA Tournament, but as his teammate Montrezl Harrell said after beating St. Louis, “It just shows you that we have other guys who can play, we are just playing good basketball. We aren’t worried about individual stats.”
The Cards will face the winner of Sunday’s Wichita State/Kentucky match-up in St. Louis. Obviously Kentucky is Louisville’s arch-in-state rival, while the Cards are the least team to beat the 35-0 Shockers who UofL defeated in the National Semi-Final at the Georgia Dome in the 2013 Final Four.
The break will come as a welcome one. While Louisville handed SLU their worst loss of the season, the Cards were a far cry from the team that dominated the AAC Tournament a week ago in Memphis. A change of venue to a more familiar territory to Lucas (Luuukkaasss) Oil Stadium should benefit Louisville. Indianapolis is Stephan Van Treese’s hometown, and the Cardinals advanced via the venue to the 2013 Final Four just a year ago.
Luke Hancock carried the load against St. Louis scoring Louisville’s first 8 points of the game, finishing with 21 points on 6-15 shooting. Hancock said after the game about going back to Indy, “Everyone is excited, but this isn’t our goal. We are excited and blessed to be here, but we want to keep winning games. ” Luke went on to discuss Kevin Ware’s broken leg that also occurred in Indianapolis last season, “That moment will be with me forever, it will be great to be there, but it will be kind of weird I guess.”
On the potential of playing Kentucky, Luke said, “We don’t care. You don’t play any weak teams any more. We know we won’t play any slouches. Wichita State is no slouch, Kentucky is no slouch.”
One thing is for sure, Louisville is no slouch. In addition to the Cards post-season record with just one loss in the past 3 years, the Cards have also not been beaten since January 16, 2012 (!). The Cards are on an incredible run right now. Two grind it out wins to start the NCAA Tournament are two very much needed contests for the Defending National Champions, who will get 6 days to re-group and focus.
4 Games. See you in Indy.
(Stay tuned for much more coverage of Louisville’s Tournament Run All Week on TheCrunchZone.com)
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