Let's just call it Russ Arena

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Russ Smith did it again for the University of Louisville basketball team, taking over the NCAA Tournament third round game. Smith finished with 27 points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals as the Cardinals decked Colorado State 82-56 before 20,000 fans at Rupp Arena.

University of Louisville coach Rick Pitino said he didn't believe the folks in Central Kentucky would like a name change at Rupp Arena.

But U of L senior point guard Peyton Siva noted everyone else was calling the place by a different name, including a chant during the game.

"I guess I can call it Russ Arena now," Siva said with a smile.

Smith, a junior guard from Brooklyn, had his third monster game in Rupp Arena with 27 points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals to lead the Cardinals in an 82-56 rout of Colorado State in the NCAA Tournament third round.

"They told me that but I was just playing," Smith said about the fans chanting Russ Arena. "All of the games I played in here were big games and in big games I try to show up and have been lucky to do that here so far."

In three games in Rupp Arena during his career, Smith has 80 points.

Smith showed up in a big way on Saturday.

In the first half, Smith cored 18 points and hit 4 of 6 from three-point range. He was 6 of 10 from the field and helped the Cardinals open a 45-31 lead.

"When he gets going like that, it's fun to watch," guard Kevin Ware said.

Added Peyton Siva: "Just give him the ball. He makes my job easier when he's like that. He's just a scoring machine."

Smith had such an incredible half that LeBron James tweeted at him, saying, "The lil homie Russ Smith putting on a show right now! #onfire"

"Somebody told me that and I was like, ‘Aw, man'," Smith said. "That's cool. It's big and I just want to thank him for that.

But Smith went on to say he was really a Kevin Durant guy, noting "He scores that ball man. (If he was to tweet at Smith) that would be over the top. Ask (Michael Baffour), I might just pass out."

Smith kept putting on a show in the second half, including one big-time, one-handed assist to Siva that drew a hug from Pitino.

"That was beautiful," he said. "This time he initiated it."

Pitino gushed about Smith and his "much improved" play after the game, noting "the old Russ Smith would have tried to get 50 tonight."

"When Russ is locked in like that, you can't stop him," Montrezl Harrell said. "I feel bad for anybody in front of him trying to stop him."


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