Tag: Luke Hancock


No. 4 Louisville advances but will need more from Russ Smith next week

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With Midwest Region No. 4 seed Louisville and No. 5 seed Saint Louis being two of the best defensive teams in the NCAA tournament field, it was somewhat predictable that both teams would have a tough time scoring. That turned out to be the case for much of the afternoon, but a 15-4 second half Louisville run gave the defending national champions the separation they needed to beat the Billikens by the final score of 66-51.

Louisville finished the game shooting 44.6% from the field, with senior guard Luke Hancock’s 21 points leading four Cardinals in double figures. Hancock hit two of his four three-pointers during the decisive run, with Chris Jones (11 points) and Montrezl Harrell (ten points, 11 rebounds) also factoring into the equation.

Rick Pitino’s will make its third consecutive Sweet 16 as a result, with this being the second time in the Hall of Fame coaches’ storied career that he’s accomplished that feat (1995-97 at Kentucky). And a stat that should make Louisville fans feel even better with an eye towards next week in Indianapolis: Pitino has a record of 11-0 in Sweet 16 games.

But if the Cardinals are to make a run at another national title they’ll need more from senior guard Russ Smith, who struggled this weekend in Orlando.

Smith, averaging 18.3 points and 4.6 assists per game entering Saturday, scored 11 points on 3-for-10 shooting against Saint Louis’ tough man-to-man defense. Add in his showing against Manhattan and the All-American shot 6-for-19 from the field, a far cry from the 47.2% he’s shooting this season.

How much is the sore left thumb bothering Smith? The tape job proved to be a nuisance early, with Smith removing it during the first half of Saturday’s game. These next few days will give Smith some valuable time to recuperate, and whether the opponent is No. 1 Wichita State or No. 8 Kentucky the Cardinals will need their star guard to be at his best. And looking back on Smith’s games against Manhattan and Saint Louis, the shooting numbers aren’t the ones that would be a cause for concern looking forward.

In those two games Smith accounted for ten assists and 13 turnovers, breaking even of his assist-to-turnover ratio against the Billikens (seven assists, seven turnovers). Smith’s assist-to-turnover ratio this season: 1.7. Granted he went up against two good defensive teams, but that’s going to be the case throughout the remainder of the tournament.

Louisville took care of Saint Louis thanks to their defense, limiting SLU to 39.6% shooting and forcing 18 turnovers, with their offensive balance coming through in the second half. The goal this time of year is a simple one: survive and advance, and they managed to do so with Smith not playing his best basketball.

Luke Hancock catches fire late, No. 4 Louisville holds off No. 13 Manhattan’s upset

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Luke Hancock scored eight straight points for No. 4 Louisville in the final 1:53 as the Cardinals avoided a massive upset on the NCAA tournament’s opening day with a 71-64 win over No. 13 Manhattan.

Hancock finished the night with 16 points, four assists and four boards. He set up Russ Smith for a three to tie the game at 58 with a little more than three minutes left, and after the two teams traded buckets, Hancock stole a floating, cross court pass and drew a foul, hitting both free throws. On the next two Louisville possessions, Hancock drilled threes, which put Manhattan to sleep.

Louisville’s performance will be cause for concern for Cards fans and anyone that bought into the hype and picked Rick Pitino’s club to make a run in the tournament. That’s what happens when a National Title favorite shoots 36.5% from the floor while their All-American, Smith, goes 3-for-9 with six turnovers.

But it’s important to remember here that Manhattan’s head coach, Steve Masiello, is about as close to Pitino as a coach can get. He was Pitino’s ball boy when Pitino was the head coach of the Knicks. He was a walk-on for Pitino at Kentucky. He was an assistant with the Cardinals for six years. And, as Pitino said after the game, his coaching style — the offense he runs, the defense he employs — is more similar to Pitino’s style than any other member of his coaching tree.

It got to the point that reporters court side at the game could hear Masiello calling out Louisville’s offenses and what they were running while they were running it.

That’s tough to play against, particularly when going up against a team that’s not going to be bothered by the things that Louisville does well.

As the saying goes, styles win the fight, and Manhattan’s style just so happened to match up well against Louisville.

And frankly, I’m more worried about the fact that Smith landed funny and played the second half with take on his thumb and wrist than I am worried about a close win over the Jaspers.

Louisville will advance to take on No. 5 Saint Louis, who erased a 14-point lead in the final five minutes to beat No. 12 N.C. State on Thursday afternoon.

Russ Smith, Luke Hancock each score 23 as Louisville survives SMU

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Through 20 minutes it looked like No. 12 Louisville was going to cruise to a double-digit win over SMU.

In the second half the Mustangs, who trailed by as many as 17 in the first half, fought back and cut into the deficit, keeping it at single-digits for the majority of the half. SMU kept it close until the game’s final moments when Montrezl Harrell put his stamp on the game game with an uncontested dunk before running back on defense — swatting a shot, then drawing a charge — to help the Cardinals pull out a 71-63 win over the Mustangs on Sunday afternoon.

SMU put forth a valiant effort in the second half, though the Ponies struggled to string together the necessary stops to cut it to a one-possession game. Luke Hancock scored 19 of his career-high 23 points in the second half, including 4-of-9 from behind the arc. All four of his 3-pointers came in the second half, many of them during important possessions for Louisville. The SMU defense continued to leave him enough space (or in some cases wide-open) for threes.

Russ Smith matched Hancock with a team-high 23 points along with seven assists, five rebounds and four steals. He helped force 10 of SMU’s 16 turnovers in the first half. The Louisville defense was much more aggressive in the first half, leading to transition buckets and a comfortable lead heading into the break.

SMU entered the game fresh off a win over No. 17 UConn — the first time the program had defeated a ranked opponent in a decade — while Louisville was looking to bounce back from a home loss to Memphis on Thursday. Sophomore guard Nic Moore was a big reason why the Mustangs upset the Huskies, but on Sunday afternoon he played limited in the first half after picking up two fouls, and ended the day 2-of-8 from the field for five points, five boards and four assists.

Moore looked to be out of sorts whether it was the Louisville defense or even an injury or illness. Moving forward, SMU — a team that could be on the bubble come Selection Sunday — will need more out of the transfer guard.

These two teams meet again on Mar. 5 at SMU.