The Cardinals most recent All-American scored 11 of the team's first 17 points to help the hosts build a 13 point lead during the game's first opening minutes. Known for his ability to make difficult shots, Smith flashed his Russdiculous persona with an early behind his back layup. He finished with 24 points, on 8 of 12 shooting, in 23 minutes of action. He also pulled down 4 rebounds and recorded 4 steals.
"You have to give him his latitude," head coach Rick Pitino explained following the 88-66 win. "Russ is having a great season. I know [Doug] McDermott is going to win the Player of the Year, but I may get upset with him now and then, but I love him to death and he's [among the] top three players in the nation. He's playing so great, I don't want him to revert back."
His efforts on Thursday night entrenched him even further into Louisville's extensive tradition. He moved into sole possession of 8th place on the program's all-time scoring list with 1,731 points, surpassing Herbert Crook and Charlie Tyra. The Brooklyn, N.Y. native, who arrived at U of L in 2010 as a lightly recruited two-star shooting guard, is also in second place in career steals with 237.
"It feels great," Smith said. "There have been a lot of great players [at Louisville]. I'm just very fortunate and lucky to be apart of that tradition. For the most part, it was something that I never dreamed of and to able to hit that milestone I'm truly thankful for."
Winners of seven straight, Smith credited a strengthening team focus and defensive effort for the improving play.
"I think we focused in more," Smith explained. "We've locked in more. We've been able to play some really good defense."
The Cardinals will look to continue the winning streak and avenge an earlier loss on Saturday when they visit rival Memphis to begin a difficult stretch to close out the regular season.
"We have Memphis coming up, SMU and then UConn, so these final three games are very important for us."