Five quick notes on Louisville’s 26-point win over Colorado State at Rupp Arena which sends the Cards on to Indianapolis next weekend.
1. Russ Arena. It may rub Kentucky fans the wrong way, but there is no doubt that Louisville’s Russ Smith loves Rupp Arena. He scored 32 points here last year when the Cards lost to Kentucky. He poured in 23 points on Thursday, hitting 10 of 16 shots, when U of L rolled over North Carolina A&T. He threw in 27 points in Louisville’s 82-56 win over Colorado State tonight. Smith made seven of 15 shots, including four of seven from three-point range. He made nine of 10 free throws. “Right now,” said teammate Kevin Ware, “he thinks he’s the best player in the country.”
2. Colorado State came into the game as one of the nation’s best rebounding teams. The Rams departed having lost the boards 29-24. CSU grabbed 40 percent of its offensive rebounds in the win over Missouri on Thursday. Louisville limited the Rams to just 26.9 percent tonight. And Louisville did it with gang rebounding. No single Cardinal had more than four rebounds.
3. The Cards win with their pressing defense. Louisville forced North Carolina A&T into 25 turnovers on Thursday. The Cards forced Colorado State into 20. In one early stretch of the second half, U of L forced Colorado State into turnovers on six straight possessions. Louisville scored 24 points off turnovers. Colorado State scored seven.
4. The Cards also shot the ball well for the second straight game. U of L shot 57.4 percent Thursday, 56.4 percent tonight. Rick Pitino’s club took just nine three-pointers, but hit five.
5. Long story shot, Louisville played like a No. 1 overall seed should in its first two NCAA Tournament games. It made short order of both opponents. It led Colorado State 45-31 at the half, then opened the second half with an 8-3 run to extend the lead to 19 points. It was all over from there, except for the brief “Robert Morris” chants, the “Russ Arena” chants and the Louisville wave.