louisville cincinnati feb

No. 11 Louisville wins wild game thanks to Russ Smith heroics over No. 7 Cincinnati

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Louisville and Cincinnati have been together playing basketball in other leagues before. In its second matchup in the American Athletic Conference, the top two teams in the league grinded-out an ugly, low-scoring contest as No. 11 Louisville knocked off No. 7 Cincinnati for a huge 58-57 road win.

Russ Smith (10 points, five assists, three steals) came up huge for the Cardinals in the game’s final possessions as he delivered two key assists to the post on pick-and-rolls before hitting the go-ahead jumper with 2.2 seconds left to seal the win for Louisville. The Cardinals deflected the ensuing Bearcat inbound attempt when Cincinnati was out of timeouts to secure the victory.

The two top AAC teams split the season series as each team won on the road against the other. Both teams are now at two losses in the AAC as the Cardinals are 12-2 and Cincinnati is 13-2.

Despite a slow-shooting first half from Sean Kilpatrick, who started 2-for-13 from the field, or the foul problems of Justin Jackson, Cincinnati quickly found itself down early before rallying for a 21-19 halftime deficit.

The late-game free throw shooting of the Bearcats kept them ahead of the Cardinals in a back-and-forth final few possessions that saw each team trade baskets after a slow-moving second half. Cincinnati went on a 10-o run with under four minutes remaining to get back into the game after a stagnant offensive stretch.

Kilpatrick finished with 28 points including a strong second half of 22 points while Montrezl Harrell brought tremendous consistent energy for Louisville on the glass, as a weak side shot blocker and as an offensive option on the pick and roll as he finished with 21 points.

This is a big road win for Louisville, who now has a road win over a really tough top-10 opponent. Can the Cardinals win the AAC and secure a good seed? And how will Cincinnati respond with two games against Connecticut and Memphis coming up after this?

VIDEO: Winthrop’s Keon Johnson goes coast-to-coast for buzzer-beater

Winthrop's Keon Johnson (5) shoots a layup while defended by Coastal Carolina's Warren Gillis during the first half of the Big South Conference Championship college basketball game Sunday, March 8, 2015, in Conway, S.C. Coastal Carolina won 81-70. (AP Photo/Richard Shiro)
(AP Photo/Richard Shiro)
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Winthop earned a Big South road win at Radford on Saturday afternoon as junior guard Keon Johnson raced coast-to-coast and buried the game-winner at the buzzer.

The 5-foot-7 Johnson erupted for 32 points in the win and he’s been one of the most potent mid-major scorers in the country this season. The win moves Winthrop to 18-7 on the season and their 10-4 mark in the Big South ties them with UNC Asheville atop the conference standings.

(H/T: LiveonASN)

After blowout of South Carolina, is No. 22 Kentucky a Final Four contender?

Kentucky guard Tyler Ulis (3) guards the ball after a rebound during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Auburn, Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016, in Auburn, Ala. Auburn won 75-70. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
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It only took 2:26 for official Doug Sirmons to plant two technical fouls on Kentucky head coach John Calipari, and that may have been the worst thing that could have happened to South Carolina.

He poked the bear, and the result was that a ticked off No. 22 Wildcat team proceeded to run the Gamecocks out of their own gym, 89-62.

The star of the show was interim head coach Tyler Ulis, who put together as dominating of a performance as you’ll ever see out of a player that stands 5-foot-9. Ulis finished with 27 points and 12 assists, hitting 4-for-8 from three and turning the ball over just once.

Marcus Lee added 11 points and 13 boards, including six on the offensive end, and Jamal Murray had his customary 26 points on 9-for-21 shooting, but the story of this game was Ulis.

I’m not sure I’ve ever seed a player under 6-foot capable of dominating a game the way that Ulis can dominate. Murray can take over with the best of them — we saw it against Florida and Ohio State — but when it comes to the NCAA tournament, this Kentucky team will go as far as Ulis carries them.

And based on the way that he’s played in the last six weeks, that could end up being pretty far. In SEC play, Ulis is averaging 19.4 points and 7.6 assists. He’s scored at least 17 points in 12 of the last 14 games and has notched as least five assists in all 14. He just orchestrated a total mollywhopping of a Frank Martin-coached team that was tied for first place in the SEC while playing without his head coach and on the road.

The issue with Kentucky is the same today as it was a month ago. They’re a two-man team with an inconsistent supporting cast. When their two studs play like this, they can beat anyone in the country. When they don’t, they can struggle against anyone.

But here’s the thing: When Ulis is playing the way that he’s played of late, they don’t really need all that much from their supporting cast. Derek Willis needs to be able to space the floor. Lee and Skal Labissiere need to be able to hold their own against opposing big men.

And when that happens?

Kentucky is clearly the best team in the SEC and good enough to be able to win four straight in the Big Dance and get to a Final Four.