Russ Smith when it counts, Louisville trims Cincinnati

thecrunchzone.com video

Russ Smith the one who will have to take the shot, bringing the ball up court with 11.6 seconds on the clock. Whoops. The Cincinnati clock operator a little quick tapping that starting switch. Going to have to do that all over again.

Not an impressive performance overall for Russ, plagued with foul problems much of the time, struggling to be relevant against an aggressive Cincinnati defense, losing that magic touch in traffic beneath the basket, not the same player. Some teams, especially in big games, seeming to do that, relegating him to a non-factor.

But Russ will get one more chance to bring the ball down court, taking his time for once, restraining himself, not wanting to rush or be a hero this time, giving up the ball to Terry Rozier, moving without the ball, expecting Rozier to shoot. Rozier goes up for the shot, but gives it back to Russ 10 feet from the basket. A high loft of a shot, hanging in the air forever, turning out to be a perfect arc, the ball slipping through the bottom of the net.

Two seconds. Game over. He either gets the credit or the blame, and he was destined to take that final shot. This UofL team will go the way he goes, and the outcome of anything he does will always be unpredictable. His ups and downs this game adding to the annals of Russ Smith lore.

An appropriate end  to a college basketball rivalry that began 92 years ago, the University of Louisville over Cincinnati at the horn, 58-57.

While Russ will be remembered for the winning shot, Montrezl Harrell will be the player who made a happy ending possible. Harrell continues to surprise with a portfolio of abilities that continue to expand. He embraces his role as the big man on Louisville’s front line, thrives on it, eats it up, wanting to be in the middle of the action.

Making his team a contender, looking forward to the big games, giving up his body for Louisville basketball, contributing 21 points and 10 rebounds. But Montrezl really needs to focus on his foibles  at the free throw line, shooting 47%, managing only five of 12 tries against Cincinnati.

Good to finally get that so-called “signature win” against a ranked opponent for the first time in five tries this season. That story line was getting a little old and insulting to Louisville’s basketball tradition.

Share this

Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.