Posted March 01, 2013 on
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Louisville isn't approaching Saturday's game at No. 12 Syracuse feeling nostalgic or sentimental about its final Big East matchup against the Orange.
Revenge isn't even the primary motivation for the No. 10 Cardinals, whose agenda is winning out and making a run at the conference tournament title. They've won four in a row and their hopes are riding on the improved play of guard Russ Smith, who is making smarter decisions and has cut down his turnovers.
The Cardinals (23-5, 11-4 Big East) were No. 1 on Jan. 19 when Syracuse (22-6, 10-5) dealt the Cardinals their only home loss this season. That started a three-game slide, shuffling Louisville to the middle of the pack.
Syracuse is now swooning with two straight losses and is 5-5 since beating the Cardinals.
Louisville's leading scorer had just one assist in the loss to the Orange but is now working to find open teammates.
''I can pass. I know I can,'' the 6-foot-1 Smith said Friday. ''I just have to make the right decision - whether it is shoot or look for the open guy when I'm driving.''
His mindset is a change from the slashing, shoot-first style he honed on Brooklyn playgrounds and displayed earlier this season. Teammates got into rebounding position as soon as he got the ball.
After Louisville's loss to Syracuse he had more turnovers (49) than assists (48). In the 10 games since, Smith has 34 assists to 22 turnovers, adding nearly an extra assist while shaving more than half a turnover a game.
Scoring hasn't been an issue for the junior. His 17 points against DePaul on Wednesday made him Louisville's 65th 1,000-point scorer, more than half coming this season.
His 18.4-point average, if it holds, would be the highest since Reece Gaines (21.0) in 2001-02, coach Rick Pitino's first season.
Louisville assistant Kevin Keatts said Smith has changed since the Syracuse game.
''He's become a better basketball player and he's honestly putting the effort in to be a better teammate as far as passing the ball and getting everyone involved,'' Keatts said.
''He's the one guy on the team that can make everyone else better because he draws so much attention.''
Keatts said Pitino's message to Smith underscores his importance to the Cardinals' postseason hopes.
''Coach is constantly on him about if we're going to go a long ways - if we're going to have to a chance to win the Big East, if we're going to chance to win the Big East tournament - `Russ, you've got to be a passer. Score when you need to but you've got to find people,' '' he added.
Finding the balance between scoring and setting up his teammates is still coming to the player Pitino nicknamed ''Russdiculous'' because of his unpredictability.
''It's always going to be hard at first because you're diverting away from something you've always done,'' Smith said. ''But if it comes down to, `in order for us to win,' then I'm going to try everything in my power.''
Smith added that it's the latest example of his adaptability. He has grown comfortable in a much different environment than his native Brooklyn after battling injuries and considering a transfer following his freshmen year.
He found his way onto the court his sophomore after his defense improved. Now comes a bigger role on offense and in the locker room.
Smith also knows the change is in his best long-term interest if he wants to continue his career beyond college. Improving his chance at a professional career and helping his team win now are motivation enough to changing his game.
''I'm assuming at the next level you get a check,'' Smith deadpanned. ''If I have to play a certain way to get a check, and on this level if I have to play a certain way to win and get a nice ring then yeah, I'll have to do it.''
While Saturday marks the final Big East game between Syracuse and Louisville, the two schools will meet again in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Syracuse and Pitt will begin play in the league next season, while the Cardinals expect to join in 2014.
BEST OF MAXIM
Russ Smith spoke to the media yesterday afternoon previewing Louisville’s game against Syracuse. The always entertaining Russ Smith didn’t disappoint at yesterday’s presser. Video courtesy of Mark Blankenbaker of CardsandCats.com.
The post Russ Smith Previews Syracuse appeared first on The Cardinal Connect.
Score: No. 10 Louisville 79, DePaul 58
Star(s): Louisville: Russ Smith 17 Pts, 4 Reb, 6 Ast. (also joined the 1,000 point club tonight)
Story: Either DePaul entered its home game hot or Louisville came out bitterly cold, but the Blue Demons started out the half up 8-0. After the Cards finally warmed up and got on the board, they made a 10-0 run of their own.
After seven U of L...
Behind Russ Smith’s 18 points and Gorgui Deing’s 14 rebounds the Cards beat 12th ranked Syracuse for their fifth straight victory.
Louisville struggled shooting the ball finishing 36% from field goal range, 34.8% from 3pt range and an abysmal 58.3% from the free throw line.
Luke Hancock provided four three-point shots on five attempts at what almost seemed to be choreographed...
Russ Smith scored 17 points, Peyton Siva had 16 and No. 10 Louisville beat DePaul 79-58 on Wednesday night for its fourth consecutive victory.
Chane Behanan added 10 points and nine rebounds for the Cardinals (23-5, 11-4 Big East), who held the Blue Demons to 36 percent shooting and forced 19 turnovers. Smith also had five assists and four steals.
Louisville is unbeaten since it...
ROSEMONT, Ill. — Russ Smith scored 17 points, Peyton Siva had 16 and No. 10 Louisville beat DePaul 79-58 on Wednesday night for its fourth consecutive victory.
Score: No. 10 Louisville 58, No. 12 Syracuse 53
Star(s): Louisville: Russ Smith 18 Pts, 2 Reb, 5 Ast. Syracuse: C.J. Fair 19 Pts, 6 Reb.
Story: The Carrier Dome was rocking yet again, but the Orange continued their late-season slide.
Louisville did a great job playing under control in the first half — Russ Smith was passing more, sparking the Cardinals’ offense. There were...
Louisville got off to a very slow start on Wednesday night at DePaul, falling behind 8-0 within the first couple of minutes. Louisville stormed back scoring nine unanswered points and never looked back.
There is no denying how sloppy Louisville looked at times, but 42-points in the paint and 23-points off of turnovers helped the Cards cruise to a 79-58 win over DePaul. Louisville...
Not even Depaul’s “Fear the D” shirts could help them as it was apparent that Depaul could not compete with the Cards. Louisville was to much for them from beginning to end and it was obvious from early in the first half. Depaul got out to a 8-0 lead early but the Cards didn’t get raddled and dominated the rest of the game.
Russ Smith struggled a bit in the first half...
Syracuse already knocked Louisville out of its perch atop the AP poll six weeks ago.
Beating the Cardinals again may end their Big East title hopes and possibly boost the Orange's
No. 12 Syracuse looks to re-establish its home dominance by beating 10th-ranked Louisville for the fourth time in a row on Saturday.
The Orange (22-6, 10-5) handed the Cardinals (23-5, 11-4) their...