Rushed Reactions: #1 Louisville 77, #12 Oregon 69Posted by WCarey on March 29th, 2013
Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Sweet 16 NCAA Tournament game between #1 Louisville and #12 Oregon in Indianapolis.
Three Key Takeaways.
- Russ Smith was terrific tonight. The dynamic junior guard led the way for the Cardinals all night on the offensive end of the court. He finished the night with 31 points on an efficient 9-of-16 from the field. His ability to consistently drain free throws – he went 12-of-14 from the charity stripe on the night – was crucial to the Cardinals putting away tonight’s victory. A lot has been made about the “Russdiculous” phenomenon – a moniker Smith earned due to his unpredictability and sometimes erratic play – but Smith showed against Oregon that he is plenty capable of remaining in control and providing the Cardinals with a consistent effort for a full 40 minutes. A strong case can be made right now that Smith has been the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Tournament, as he also put up strong performances against North Carolina A&T in the Round of 64 (23 points) and against Colorado State in the Round of 32 (27 points).
- Oregon battled hard, but Louisville proved to be just too much. Oregon could have easily packed it in when it went down by 14 at half and by 18 with 9:02, but the Ducks showed their resiliency by fighting to the very end. It was quite apparent that Louisville was the much more talented team on the court, but the fight put forth by Oregon was essentially the only reason why this game was even somewhat close. Dana Altman‘s squad should be proud of the way it played against the superior Cardinals. While Oregon was never able to really make things that interesting for Louisville, its hard-nosed play prevented the Cardinals from pulling away in the second half. Oregon could have absolutely played better, but it probably could not have played any harder.
- Louisville should be seen as a favorite to take home the national title. Louisville’s great talent advantage was on display once again in the win over Oregon. Despite battling foul trouble, point guard Peyton Siva once again showed why he is one of the best floor generals in the country. As previously mentioned, guard Russ Smith was outstanding all night. Louisville’s post play did a fantastic job of ensuring Oregon did not get anything easy close to the basket. Gorgui Dieng, Chane Behanan, and Montrezl Harrell provided the Cardinals with rugged play and a tenacity that very few teams in the country could have matched. While it is probably unfair to declare the Cardinals as the clear favorite to cut down the nets in Atlanta, Louisville definitely has the guns to make that a reality.
Star of the Game. Russ Smith, Louisville. The dynamic junior guard was just outstanding for the Cardinals. His 31 points led the way for an offensive attack that finished the game shooting a very strong 53.8% from the field. The fact that Louisville’s second-leading scorer was reserve guard Kevin Ware with 11 points shows just how strong Smith was as the team’s go-to guy. Oregon worked outrageously hard all game to try to keep the game close, but in the end, it was the strong play and outstanding free throw shooting (12-of-14) from Smith that guided the Cardinals to an eight-point victory and berth in the Elite Eight.
- “We fought very hard, but Louisville is a really, really good team that just played better than us tonight.” – Oregon forward E.J. Singler commenting on how the Ducks’ effort came up short.
- “Russ Smith has had a year and a half like no other player I have ever coached.” – Louisville coach Rick Pitino, providing a very solid compliment to his star junior guard.
Sights and Sounds. This was essentially a home game from Louisville, as its campus is only a few hours away from Indianapolis, while Oregon’s campus is across the country. It would be fair to say that the Cardinals fans out-numbered the Ducks fans by a healthy 10-to-1 ratio. With the strong showing of Louisville fans came a really strong amount of Cardinal red that was evident throughout the stadium. While Oregon had a fairly small contingent, it made itself known throughout most of the game and it seemed like they really appreciated the strong effort put forth by their team. In a nice moment after the game, Oregon forwards E.J. Singler and Arsalan Kazemi led the team over to salute their fans that had made the long journey to Indianapolis for the game.
What’s Next. Louisville advances to the Elite Eight where it will meet the winner of Duke and Michigan State on Sunday. No matter who they play, the game is going to be quite significant as a trip to the Final Four will be on the line.