Russ Smith Leads Louisville Past Pittsburgh Without Two Contributors

By Jon Hancock
Russ Smith Louisville Cardinals
Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

The Louisville Cardinals have ended their losing streak at three games after beating Pittsburgh at home. Louisville desperately needed this win after going from the top team in the nation to ranked No. 13 in two weeks. Junior guard Russ Smith had struggled the most in the losing streak, he was a scoring machine and was even on several analysts Player of the Year lists, but just couldn’t find a rhythm the past two weeks. Tonight he seemed like his old self in the 64-61 victory.

Smith scored 20 points, shooting 3-7 from the three-point line.  He also played with a lot more intensity on defense, which kept the Pittsburgh guards contained most of the game. His presence was a must for Louisville, as they were short-manned. Louisville announced Monday afternoon that Wayne Blackshear would miss tonight’s game due to a sprained shoulder. Blackshear had struggled with shoulder issues last year, which kept him out most of the season.

Louisville also announced sophomore backup Kevin Ware is suspended indefinitely for ” an unspecified reason.” Ware had some issues before the season that made coach Rick Pitino keep him out of the first two scrimmages.

Pitino said after the game via ESPN Radio of Ware, “He will not be coming back anytime soon.”

Louisville is known for their ability to go deep in their bench, it is one of the reasons they were able make it to the Final Four last season.  They already are not very deep at the guard position, which made point guard Peyton Siva forced to play all 40 minutes of the game Monday night.

Gorgui Dieng also played well even with the physical play underneath by Pitt. Dieng earned his fifth double-double of the season, with 12 points and 12 rebounds.  He also was able to block five of Pittsburgh’s shots and passed for four fantastic assists. He is slowly becoming an all-around center.

In the end, this is a great win for the Cardinals and they will now have the opportunity to regroup and heal since they are off until Sunday when they play No. 25 Marquette at home.  This will be another big resume builder at the end of the season if Louisville can beat another ranked team.  But the Cardinals must hope Russ Smith has another big game.


Follow Jon Hancock on Twitter:@JonKYSportsco.

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