Morning After: Cards take out Missouri

The Morning After is a new feature at Cardinal Authority this season for men's basketball games. The feature will be five thoughts from the game the night before. And this one comes after the best performance of the season, an 84-61 win over No. 13 Missouri in the Battle 4 Atlantis.

1. Coach P was correct on Hancock: U of L coach Rick Pitino said the best medicine for the shooting woes for Luke Hancock was a road trip and he was correct. Hancock broke out of his slump in a major way. He was 5 of 7 on three-point field goals and just looked so much more relaxed for the Cardinals. Like I have said before, too many people have said the kid is a player. So, you have to believe. And now after last you saw a glimpse. Hopefully, that's all that Hancock needed to get his confidence up and get him rolling. He was fun to watch on this night.

2. Russ Smith the player the team has to have: OK, it's time for everyone to realize Russ Smith is a very good basketball player. Repeat after me, basketball player. He's really improved in every facet of the game. He had 18 points, seven rebounds, six steals and four assists against Missouri. He had half of the steals for the Cardinals one night after leading the team in assists. I know coach P gets on his case and at times he's still out of control but he's the MVP right now.

3. The run that put it away: The game turned when the Cardinals went on an 11-0 run – not long after Pitino's potty break – to grab the lead for good and never looked back. Smith keyed it with a three-pointer and then grabbed an offensive rebound that led to another three-pointer. The Cardinals led 50-35 after the surge and it was over after that, huge lift from Smith during the surge.

4. Pressey is a good player but not on this night: The defense has been so solid. And yes, the Cardinals gave up 61 but they were really good against the Tigers – and former assistant coach Tim Fuller. U of L forced 23 turnovers, including eight by point guard Phil Pressey. He's one of the best point guards in the country but he was dogged all night by Smith and Siva and just couldn't get it done. This defense, remember, is going to get better and better. That's a scary thougt.

5. A few leftover observations: Hancock had made 7 of his first 36 field-goal attempts this season. . . . Montrezl Harrell and Kevin Ware only eight and seven minutes respectively. But Stephan Van Treese had 13 with Dieng in some foul trouble. Van Treese had a bucket and just one rebounds. . . . Siva was all-around solid game with 13 points and six rebounds. . . . U of L will face Duke in the final, the first meeting between the two schools since the 1986 national title game.

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