Notebook: Louisville basketball in title game

NEW YORK - With a championship game date set for the fourth time in five years, the University Louisville men's basketball team will try to make a case for a top seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Cardinals have won nine straight. Here are a few notes heading into Saturday's title game with Syracuse.

HANCOCK IS SMOKING HOT FROM THREE

University of Louisville coach Rick Pitino called Luke Hancock by the name "Cool Hand Luke," after the junior guard hit two big three-pointers in a recent game.

Might want to check that to "Smoking Hot Hancock," with his recent play.

Hancock hit 3 of 3 three-pointers on Friday night against Notre Dame, making him 18 of 33 from three-point range during the nine-game winning streak. He's an even better 16 of 26 in the past seven games and that includes a 1-for-5 effort against Villanova in the Big East quarterfinal on Thursday night.

"That's a little better than I started the season huh," Hancock said with a smile. "I just feel like I have a lot more confidence and I am more comfortable.

"Now, every time I don't shoot a shot my teammates are looking at me and saying, ‘What are you doing?' and coach Pitino is the same way. So, that's really put a lot of confidence in me and I think that's huge."

Hancock, who was 4-for-29 in his first four games of the season, said he finally feels his shoulder is near healthy after offseason surgery. Pitino said it was "one of the worst shoulder injuries (trainer) Fred Hina has seen."

A transfer from George Mason who sat out last season at U of L, Hancock said it wasn't until a few weeks ago that "it felt good after stretching it for 20 minutes before every game, it's just taken time."

"I feel like I am more comfortable and just making some shots," he said.

VAN TREES COMING UP BIG

Back up center Stephen Van Treese has come up huge for the Cardinals in recent weeks, getting more minutes to rest Gorgui Dieng a little.

The 6-foot-9 Van Treese has 13 rebounds in two Big East Conference games and has played 15 minutes in both of the games.

Van Treese is averaging 3.5 rebounds a game and has 28 rebounds in the past six games. He's only averaging 1.9 points a game but has only taken 32 field-goal attempts on the season.

"I'm just trying to do whatever I need to do to help the team," he said. "Coach said I need to get in there and rebound, so that's what I am doing."

SMITH SETS FREE-THROW MARK

Junior Russ Smith is 13 of 15 from the free-throw line in two games at the Big East following a 3 of 4 effort on Friday.

Smith is now 179 of 216 on the season and has snapped Wes Unseld's record for made free throws in a single season. Unseld had 177 in 1967-68.

Smith has made 10 of more in seven games this season.

Playing in front of a lot of family and friends, Smith has 48 points in two games. He's hit double figures in 30 of 33 games this season for the Cardinals.

A FEW MORE NUGGETS

*Siva and Smith have combined for 7o of 143 points in two games.

*U of L is now 21-1 on the season when holding an opponent under 60 points. The lone loss was a 53-51 decision at Georgetown.

*The Cardinals are 25-0 when leading at the half.

*Rick Pitino is now 44-13 all-time in conference tournaments. He's 57-25 in the month of March during his tenure at U of L.


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