IT WAS OVER WHEN: Russ Smith made back to back shots in overtime to give Louisville an 83-79 lead with 1:40 remaining, then closed the game out by making five or six free throws in the final 66 seconds.
KEY STATS: 12-22
Louisville only made 12 of 21 free throws in a one-point loss to Syracuse, but the Cardinals overcame DePaul Saturday by making 12 of 21 three-pointers. Kyle Kuric made 5 of 10 three's while Russ Smith drained 3 of 6 attempts. Louisville, which trailed by 17 late in the first half, out-scored the Blue Demons 36-18 beyond the arch. The Cardinals hit eight second half three's to overcome their 10-point half time deficit.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: An easy case could be made for Kyle Kuric, who scored a team-high 25 points, including 17 in the second half. But Louisville wouldn't have won without the play of Russ Smith, who finished with 18 points and made the big plays in the extra frame that propelled the Cardinals to victory. Smith's consecutive thee-pointers during a second half run gave the lead back to Louisville, but it was his clutch play in overtime that gives him the nod. Smith broke a tie game in overtime with two straight baskets, then made a key steal and assist to Chris Smith in the final minute to ice the game.
TURNING POINT: Clearly, Smith's two straight baskets in overtime were crucial, but the game's turning point came in the opening minutes of the second half, when Louisville spurted to a 50-48 lead after trailing 42-32 at the half. After allowing DePaul too many easy baskets and committing 11 turnovers in the opening half, Louisville turned up the defensive pressure, took better care of the ball and started hitting shots to overcome the Blue Demons in overtime.
TOP RESERVE Russ Smith, no brainer. After struggling against Syracuse, the sophomore guard responded with 18 points, 6 steals, 5 assists and four rebounds. Smith made four steals after halftime to give Louisville extra possessions to overcome an inspired Blue Demon squad looking for a major upset.