Louisville v SMU

After win at No. 18 SMU, No. 11 Louisville is once again peaking in March

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source: Getty Images
Getty Images

Russ Smith scored 22 of his 26 points in the second half, hitting all six of his threes in the final 13 minutes as No. 11 Louisville went into Moody Coliseum and knocked off No. 18 SMU, 84-71.

The win is impressive in and of itself. The Mustangs are as tough as anyone in the country on their home floor. Ask UConn, Memphis and Cincinnati, who were all run off the floor by Larry Brown’s club. What’s more is that SMU came out on fire, taking a 26-12 lead with just seven minutes left in the first half.

Do a little bit of math, and the Cardinals scored 72 points in 27 minutes on the home floor of a team ranked 17th in the country in defensive efficiency, according to KenPom. The Cardinals outscored SMU by 25 points during that stretch.

They forced 23 turnovers and scored 25 points off of them. Their back court of Smith and Chris Jones combined for 47 points, seven assists and eight steals while shooting 10-for-13 from three, numbers made all the more impressive when you consider that Smith was dealing with a stomach bug (he threw up in a trash can after hitting his sixth three) and that Jones’ step-brother was shot and killed during the Memphis game; Jones is a Memphis native.

No matter how you slice it, this was a dominating performance from the Cardinals. If it wasn’t for a late-game collapse at Memphis last Saturday, the Cardinals would be in a position where they would look like a favorite to make a run back to the Final Four. As it is, the biggest hinderance to the Cardinal’s chances of making it back to Dallas in April could end up being the seed that they draw on Selection Sunday.

Louisville struggled in the non-conference, losing their only two quality games in non-conference play, but with a game against UConn this weekend and a trip to the AAC tournament the following week, a No. 3 seed isn’t out of the question for Rick Pitino’s club.

Here’s the thing about the NCAA tournament this season: there are no dominant teams. The difference between the teams that end up on the No. 1 seed line and the teams that are No. 4 seeds won’t be all that much. Louisville can absolutely make a Final Four, even if they have to play Stephen Van Treese for 27 minutes a night.

That’s how good their perimeter is, and that’s how dominant Montrezl Harrell can be.

For the third straight season, Louisville appears to be peaking at the perfect time.

Marcus Paige, Joel Berry lead No. 9 North Carolina past No. 2 Maryland

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — He’s back.

For the first time this season — and for the first time in more than a year that he hasn’t been hampered with some kind of foot or ankle injury — Marcus Paige donned a North Carolina jersey, and it didn’t take him long to find the form that made him the NBCSports.com Preseason National Player of the Year.

On the first Tar Heel possession, Paige came off of a ball-screen, drove the lane and found Kennedy Meeks at the rim for a layup. Not 30 seconds later, he came off of a down screen and buried a three. Paige would finish with 20 points and five assists as No. 9 North Carolina put together a fairly resounding win over No. 2 Maryland in the Dean Dome on Tuesday night, winning 89-81.

Paige finished 7-for-12 from the floor and 4-for-5 from beyond the arc, hitting a number of threes in the second half that helped hold off a Maryland push sparked by their own all-american point guard, Melo Trimble.

Trimble was erratic early on, committing three turnovers in the first six minutes and eight on the night, but it was his play at the end of the first half and early second half that kept North Carolina from blowing their doors. At one point, Maryland was down 32-19 and in danger of getting run out of Tobacco Road.

In total, Trimble finished with 23 points and 12 assists, hitting four big threes during that stretch. He either scored or assisted on 11 of Maryland’s first 12 second half field goals.

As good as Paige was, the bigger story may actually be Joel Berry II. He took two dumb threes in the first half — which played a role in Maryland being able to make this a game — and he missed a few free throws late, but overall he was terrific. He finished with 14 points and five assists, making 3-of-5 threes and turning the ball over just twice. He’s clearly beat Nate Britt out at the point guard spot, and his ability to take pressure off of Paige as a secondary ball-handler and playmaker is huge.

(More to come from Chapel Hill…)

VIDEO: Melo Trimble drops Nate Britt with a crossover

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North Carolina is hosting No. 2 Maryland in a heated contest in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Terps sophomore guard Melo Trimble is playing very well and part of his performance was dropping North Carolina’s Nate Britt with a crossover in the second half.

(H/T: The Cauldron)