Russ Smith was destined to take the last shot against AAC rival Cincinnatti and be the Cards hero. Right? No matter the outcome of any game it seems it’s always on Russ Smith’s shoulders. Card’s fans either love him or love to hate him but on Saturday Russ was unloved until the final seconds.
Russ shooting a horrid 3 for 10 from the field and being foul plagued all signs pointed as if Russ was going to take the fall for the loss. Russ had other ideas though.With 11.6 seconds left in the game with Louisville down 1 Russ took the inbounds pass and headed upcourt surprisingly passed the rock to Terry Rozier. Not like the old Russ who would have tried to be the hero by taking a highly contested shot. This time he trusted his team, made a few cuts , watched Rozier go up for the final shot but Rozier suddenly dished it back to Russ around 18 feet from the hoop. Without hesitation Russ fired a shot that seemed to hang in the air for minutes. The high arced shot happened to be right on the money as the ball splashed straight through the net with 2 seconds remaining on the clock. Joyfulness for the Cardinals and stunned were the Bearcats.
Russ will be remembered as the hero but it was Montrez Harrell who made it all possible. Harrell contributed 21 points and 10 boards in the highly contested affair that was filled with great defense and physical play. Harrell has quickly became one of the best big men in the game giving it his all coming off a dunk filled game against a much lesser opponent.
No one could have written a better ending to a college hoop rivalry that began 92 years ago, Louisville over Cincinnati at the buzzer 58-57. Louisville and Cincinnati have made some great memories in those years and it will be sad to see these two not paired up twice every year. But better things lie ahead for the Cardinals in the ACC. Especially a chance to strengthen the schedule that has been scrutinized by media and rivals.
The fact is Louisville finally broke the pattern of winning big against unranked opponents and losing the “big game”. The signature win against a ranked opponent hadn’t been done in the previous four tries. The defending champions seem to be clicking and hitting on all cylinders at the right time winning their sixth straight and 10 out of the last 11. It’s a shame that most have forgotten that the Cards are the defending national champions and with hall of fame coach Rick Pitino on the bench there’s not a team they can’t beat in March.