LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Russ Smith ranked Louisville’s 80-77 victory over Kentucky on Saturday as one of the five favorites of his career.
Makes sense, considering he played a key role in ending the No. 4 Cardinals’ four-game losing streak against the rival Wildcats.
Smith scored 21 points, including five of Louisville’s final 13, along with seven rebounds to help the Cardinals hold off Kentucky in an up-and-down game.
The effort comes nearly a year after he came off the bench to score 30 in the Cardinals’ 69-62 loss to the Wildcats in Lexington, one of two defeats last season to their in-state rivals that included last season’s national semifinal. Kentucky went on to win its eighth national championship.
“This one probably ranks as one of the top five biggest wins of my life,” said the junior guard, whose list includes last season’s NCAA regional final, the round of 16 and Louisville’s two wins that clinched the Big East Conference championship last March.
“We know where we messed up and we know the mistakes we made, but at the end of the day it’s a win. It’s not a conference win but it’s a great non-conference win. It’s a great win for the city. We’re actually more happy for our fans than for ourselves. … I guess revenge is the word, but it feels good beating the team that knocked you out of the Final Four.”
Especially since that team, Kentucky, resides about 80 miles east and had recently owned the Battle of the Bluegrass. Louisville now has bragging rights, and Smith had help in getting them for the Cardinals.
Sophomore forward Chane Behanan had 20 points, seven rebounds and three steals, including a steal of Archie Goodwin’s pass that led to his dunk with 18 seconds remaining that sealed the victory for Louisville (12-1).
Before fouling out, Peyton Siva added 19 points for the Cardinals, who had to withstand several charges from Kentucky.
The Wildcats trailed 51-34 but outscored the Cardinals 28-14 to get within 65-62 before Smith’s two baskets keyed an 8-5 run that gave Louisville some breathing room.
The Cardinals won despite four fouls by Smith and center Gorgui Dieng, who returned from a seven-game absence with a broken left wrist. The junior had six points, seven rebounds and two blocks.
Goodwin scored 19 of his 22 points in the second half for Kentucky (8-4), and Ryan Harrow added 17 points.
No. 1 Duke 90,
Santa Clara 77
DURHAM, N.C. — Seth Curry scored 12 of his season-high 31 points during the late run that helped No. 1 Duke pull away over pesky Santa Clara.
Mason Plumlee added 22 points and 13 rebounds for the Blue Devils (12-0), who needed a huge run late to overcome both a big game from Kevin Foster and a real scare from the Broncos (11-3).
Foster scored 18 of his 29 points in the first half, and his soaring baseline dunk put the Broncos up 45-41 with 16:30 left. But the Broncos managed just one field goal over the next 8½ minutes.
Curry hit two 3-pointers and followed with three layups during the Blue Devils’ 26-5 run.
Ryan Kelly had 10 points and 11 rebounds, and Quinn Cook finished with 15 points for Duke, which is 12-0 for the 10th time under coach Mike Krzyzewski. The Blue Devils won their 101st straight nonconference game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
No. 2 MICHIGAN 88,
CENTRAL MICHIGAN 73
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Trey Burke had 22 points and 10 assists as Michigan finished its non-conference schedule with a victory over Central Michigan.
Michigan played without junior Tim Hardaway Jr. who missed the first game of his career with an ankle injury. That meant the Wolverines started three freshmen — Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III and Caris LeVert — along with Burke and Jordan Morgan.
Robinson had 20 points, while Stauskas finished with 19 for Michigan (13-0), which is off to the second-best start in school history. The 1985-86 Wolverines team, led by Gary Grant, Roy Tarpley and Glen Rice, started the season 16-0 on its way to a Big Ten championship.
No. 6 KANSAS 89,
LAWRENCE, Kan. — Travis Releford scored 19 points and Kansas hit a scorching 13 of its first 18 3-point attempts, rolling to a victory over American.
Kansas (11-1) took command with a 21-4 spree in the opening minutes and wound up with six players scoring at least nine points against the outmanned Eagles (4-9). Releford was 7 for 8 from the floor, including 5 of 6 3-pointers. Elijah Johnson had 12 points and was 4 for 5 from behind the arc as the Jayhawks finished with 15-for-24 3-point shooting.
No. 9 SYRACUSE 57,
ALCORN STATE 36
SYRACUSE, N.Y. — C.J. Fair scored 13 points, Trevor Cooney added 12, all in the second half to key a late surge, and Syracuse beat Alcorn State in the final game of the Gotham Classic.
It was the 901st win for Orange coach Jim Boeheim, one behind Bob Knight for second place all-time among Division I men’s coaches. Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski leads with 939 wins.
Syracuse (11-1), coming off an 83-79 loss to Temple at Madison Square Garden a week ago, increased its home winning streak to 31 games, longest in the nation. Alcorn State (2-13), which was late arriving because of the weather, dropped to 0-9 on the road in losing its ninth straight.
No. 10 OHIO ST. 87,
CHICAGO ST. 44
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Deshaun Thomas scored 17 points and Ohio State regained its shooting touch in its final tuneup before beginning Big Ten play.
LaQuinton Ross added 15 points, Lenzelle Smith Jr. had 13, Amedeo Della Valle had career-high 11 and Aaron Craft scored 10 for the Buckeyes (10-2), who complete an eight-game homestand when they host Nebraska in the conference opener on Wednesday.
The Buckeyes hit 33 of 58 shots from the field (57 percent).
No. 12 ILLINOIS 81,
CHICAGO — Tracy Abrams scored a career-high 27 points for Illinois.
The Illini (13-1) saw an 11-point lead shrink to one in the closing minutes but they prevailed after falling to Missouri in the Braggin’ Rights game a week earlier — their first loss under coach John Groce.
Frankie Sullivan buried a 3 for Auburn (5-7) to make it 68-67 with 4:29 remaining. Illinois then hit 13 of 18 free throws the rest of the way for a rare win at the United Center, where they had dropped three straight and five of six after winning 18 in a row.
Abrams, a sophomore guard, was 6 of 11 from the field and 13 of 15 from the free throw line while eclipsing his previous high by five points.
No. 14 FLORIDA 78,
AIR FORCE 61
SUNRISE, Fla. — Kenny Boynton snapped a shooting slump with three 3-pointers in the second half when Florida pulled away.
Boynton had made only 4 of 32 from 3-point range over the previous five games, but he hit three in a span of 8 minutes to break the game open. The Gators used their superior size and smothering defense to grind down the Falcons, who shot 48 percent in the first half and 33 percent in the second half.
No. 16 CREIGHTON 87,
OMAHA, Neb. — Doug McDermott scored 14 of his 29 points in a 6½-minute stretch of the second half when Creighton pulled away from Evansville.
Gregory Echenique had 13 points and 13 rebounds, Jahenns Manigat added 13 points, and Avery Dingman had 11 for the Bluejays (12-1), who won their Missouri Valley Conference opener.
McDermott, the Bluejays’ returning All-American, also had 10 rebounds for his second double-double of the season.
Colt Ryan, who scored an arena-record 43 points in his last visit, matched his season high with 25 for the Purple Aces (7-6, 0-1). Troy Taylor added 10 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for Evansville, which has lost 14 straight in Omaha since 1999.
No. 18 BUTLER 68,
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Rotnei Clarke hit six 3-pointers and finished with 22 points and the Butler Bulldogs shook off a sluggish start and routed Vanderbilt for their seventh straight victory.
The Bulldogs (10-2) missed their first seven 3-pointers and led only 25-22 at halftime before taking control of the game with a 14-3 run to open the second half.
NORTH CAROLINA 79,
No. 20 UNLV 73
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — P.J. Hairston scored 15 points in his first career start for North Carolina.
Dexter Strickland added a season-high 16 points for the Tar Heels (10-3), who led by 15 points in the first half and by nine at the break. But UNC had to turn away a second-half surge by the Runnin’ Rebels (11-2) to earn the program’s 63rd straight home win against nonconference opponents.
Freshman Anthony Bennett had 15 points and 13 rebounds for UNLV, which led by a point briefly in the second half but spent most of the game in catch-up mode. Katin Reinhardt and Anthony Marshall each added 15 points for the Runnin’ Rebels, who also got Mike Moser back from an elbow injury after a four-game absence.
No. 23 N.C. ST. 84,
W. MICHIGAN 68
RALEIGH, N.C. — C.J. Leslie scored 19 points to lead North Carolina State.
Richard Howell added 18 points on 8-of-8 shooting for the Wolfpack (10-2), who won their sixth consecutive game.
N.C. State shot 55 percent from the field, padding its NCAA-leading field goal percentage.
T.J. Warren scored 15 points, Scott Wood had 11 and Lorenzo Brown added 10 for the Wolfpack.
Nate Hutcheson scored 16 points to lead the Broncos (8-5). Shayne Whittington added 14 points, and Darius Paul had 12 for Western Michigan.
No. 25 KANSAS STATE 52,
Mo.-KANSAS CITY 44
MANHATTAN, Kan. — Rodney McGruder scored 17 points, Thomas Gipson had 13 points and six rebounds and Kansas State struggled to a victory over Missouri-Kansas City.
Playing without guards Angel Rodriguez and Martavious Irving due to injuries, the Wildcats (10-2) shot just 32 percent from the field and went 2 of 10 from beyond the arc in their first game since beating then-No. 8 Florida on a neutral floor.
They certainly looked nothing like the team that beat the Gators last weekend.
Fred Chatmon had nine points and 16 rebounds for the ‘Roos (4-9), who were within 40-36 with 3:11 remaining before Nino Williams’ 3-point play gave the Wildcats some breathing room.