Whoever said being the top team in the NCAA was easy?
After becoming the top-ranked team in the nation for just the second time in school history, the Louisville Cardinals needed every point they could muster from junior guard Russ Smith to overcome a slow first half and push past the Connecticut Huskies 73-58, on Monday night.
Smith scored 15 of his 23 points in the first half, but the rest of the Cardinals had a hard time putting the ball in the bucket as the Huskies went to halftime with a 34-28 lead. Louisville battled back in the second half, and finally were able to blow it open with a 19-3 run to take a comfortable lead.
The Cardinals struggled in the first half, only shooting a shade over 40 percent from the field. But they turned it up in the second half and alleviated Smith's need to score. Sophomore forward Chane Behanan added 16 points and nine rebounds, and senior guard Peyton Siva contributed 11 points and four assists.
The stalwart Louisville defense harried the Huskies into a poor shooting night. Junior guard Shabazz Napier was limited to 12 points on 4-for-13 shooting and was just 1-for-7 from the three-point line. Freshman guard Omar Calhoun led the Huskies with 20 points, but also had six of the Huskies' 16 turnovers. As a team, the Huskies shot 39.6 percent from the field and 36.4 percent from the three-point line.
The small lineup Connecticut threw out for most of the game struggled on the boards, getting outrebounded by Louisville, 33-25. Cardinals forward Gorgui Dieng led all players with 16 rebounds.