Louisville’s star shooting guard shook off the Russ of a 4-for-24 shooting stretch (ehhhhhh, I know, bad one) in an utterly dominant 23-point performance Monday night.
Athletically, it’s hard to prepare for someone like Russ Smith, a truly elite athletic specimen. Shabazz Napier, normally long-winded in his responses, broke it down pretty simple terms.
“Russ — he’s good,” Napier said. “He’s so fast.”
UConn was overmatched in the frontcourt, and it needed a big-time performance from its two guards to compensate. That’s not what happened. Instead, Smith and Siva got the best of ‘Bazz and Boat.
Other notes/quotes from Monday at the XL Center:
*Omar Calhoun, who entered scoring just 5.6 points per game on 27 percent shooting in Big East play, came alive with 20. He did, however, commit six turnovers.
“(Calhoun) played with the passion and purpose I want all our players to have,” said UConn coach Kevin Ollie. “His play at the end of the first half — everybody seemed to stop playing, but he didn’t.”
*There was praise to go around: Ollie called Smith and Siva “amazing” and “damn good.” Rick Pitino, in turn, had some kind words for Ollie.
“I’ve said this many times: I think Kevin Ollie — I’ll be long dead — but he’s going to be an unbelievable coach,” Pitino said.
*Believe it or not, Louisville, recently crowned No. 1, had never been atop a regular season poll before Monday. If the Cardinals want to extend their stay, they’ll have to take down No. 6 Syracuse Saturday.
*Shabazz Napier scored 10 points before the first media timeout, but was held in check the rest of the way. He sported a large icepack on his shoulder after the game and said it was the result of a hard foul — Peyton Siva’s second — with 16:13 remaining in the first half.
*Louisville has now won six of its last seven games against UConn. The lone exception, of course, is the 2011 Big East title game.