U of L sets NCAA record for steals in romp

LEXINGTON, Ky. – University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino loves defense and on Thursday he liked was he saw from the Cardinals. The Cardinals set an NCAA Tournament record with 20 steals and decked North Carolina A&T 79-48 before about 20,000 fans in Rupp Arena.

University of Louisville sophomore Chane Behanan said he calls it "annoying defense," and knows how an opponent must feel.

Behanan is talking about his teammates – Russ Smith and Peyton Siva – when they are "locked in on defense, it's just annoying."

And that's exactly how North Carolina A&T felt on Thursday night as the backcourt tandem combined for 12 steals and the Cardinals had a total of 20 steals – an NCAA Tournament single-game record – and buried the Aggies 79-48.

"That was the quickest team for its size that we have seen," N.C. A&T coach Cy Alexander said. "It's hard to simulate that in 24 hours. In a hotel ballroom, it's kind of hard to simulate when we walked through last night."

The pressure was too much for the Aggies.

U of L finished with a season-high and what coach Rick Pitino called a "amazing number" of 75 deflections in the game, including 32 by the backcourt. The previous high for the season was 58 against Syracuse.

Smith had an NCAA single-game record eight steals, while Siva and Wayne Blackshear had four apiece with four other players each garnering one steal.

The team high of 20 – one off the school record set in 1975 – broke the old mark of 19 set in 1987 by Pitino's Providence team and in 1990 by Connecticut.

"We made it a big goal to get 15 steals in the game," Pitino said. "We felt they were a trapping team. We thought it would be a chaotic game by both teams. We wanted to protect the ball. You know, the way Peyton and Russ played defense tonight was amazing, because they kept moving their feet and staying in the plane without reaching in, into the other person's plane.

"I thought that was an amazing defensive effort by the backcourt."

U of L scored 34 points off turnovers and forced the Aggies into 27 turnovers, while turning it over 16 times on the offensive end.

Siva said the plan was to try and "wear them down," and that's exactly what happened. Pitino said the 75 was also a record for his teams.

"Tonight we had 32 (deflections) from our backcourt, which I've never had since I've been coaching in 35 years, pro or college," Pitino said. "We had Russ with 16 and Peyton with 16, which I have never seen before."

Added freshman Montrezl Harrell: "You could tell Peyton and Russ were locked in. They were ready to play."

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