Rushed Reaction: #4 Louisville 72, #7 Florida 68Posted by rtmsf on March 24th, 2012
Three Key Takeaways.
- Russ Smith Is Just Crazy Enough to Save Louisville. Billy Donovan called Russ Smith “crazy” in the postgame press conference, but he meant it as a compliment. And we were tweeting much the same thing during the game. You just never know what you’re going to get from the talented but playground-wild guard, and there was no better example than when he led his team offensively down the stretch. It was his offense, especially a huge three to cut the Florida from six to three points, that led to the Cardinal comeback; and his wild turnover with Louisville up only one point shows just how volatile he can be.
- What Happened to Bradley Beal? Through the first half, Florida guard Bradley Beal was the best player on the floor. He was patient in finding his offense, hitting on 3-of-4 shots including a couple of silky-smooth threes. He made three more shots in the early part of the second half, but after the 13:45 mark he was not heard from again until Russ Smith passed him the ball and he was so shocked he traveled with it in the last minute of the game. Beal was the most talented player on the floor, and for the Gators to get to New Orleans, he was going to have to carry them. Instead, the black hole of Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker (combined: 7-21 FGs) once again sunk Billy Donovan’s team.
- Nobody Saw This Coming. With no reliable and proven scorer, Rick Pitino has molded his team into a defensive force, and even with Florida shooting an absurd 67% in the first half (including eight three-pointers), it was Louisville’s defense that proved the difference in the last eight minutes of the game. A 65-54 Gator lead became a 72-68 loss, which meant that the Cardinal defense held UF to only three points on 1-12 shooting (and 1-4 from the line) in the most crucial part of the game. Could anyone have imagined that this Louisville team would win the Big East Tournament and make another Final Four without a true star player? It’s inconceivable, and yet, they’re heading to New Orleans.
Star of the Game. Russ Smith, Louisville. As mentioned above, Smith’s energy and offensive prowess gave Louisville just enough to make the successful comeback down the stretch. He ended the game with 19 points and five rebounds (along with four turnovers), but there’s no way that Louisville wins this game without him.
Quotable. “I call hims Russticulous, because he’s ridiculous. He averaged 33 points a game in high school, and he shot eight ridiculous shots a game. I said, ‘can we get to five?’ and then three, and then two…” — Louisville head coach Rick Pitino describing the playground in Russ Smith’s game.
Sights & Sounds. It’s an interesting tradition that both the Louisville and Kentucky bands play My Old Kentucky Home after the game, so could we be treated with both bands doing it next week in New Orleans? If Kentucky wins tomorrow, just go ahead and set the Bluegrass State on fire for the next six days, will ya?
What’s Next? Louisville moves on to its second Final Four in the Rick Pitino era, where it will await Sunday’s game to see whether it will face Kentucky or Louisville. Could we have Dream Game II?