Russ Smith's 3-pointer was the key for Cards

ORLANDO, Fla. - University of Louisville senior Russ Smith connected on a big-time three-pointer with 3:23 left to spark a late 16-6 run that lifted the Cardinals past Manhattan 71-64 on Thursday night in the NCAA Tournament.

Down 58-55 with less than four minutes to go in the opening game of the NCAA Tournament, the University of Louisville saw its hopes for another national title flash before its eyes.

But senior Luke Hancock said he was never nervous in a game against a pesky Manhattan team.

"Never," Hancock said with a smile. "We have Russ Smith, I wasn't nervous."

And Russdiculous did it again.

Smith was just 2 of 7 from the field for the game, had a jammed left thumb that was making it hard for him to use his left hand and admittedly just "wasn't playing my game."

But with 3:23 left, Smith hit one of the biggest three-pointers of his career. His three-pointer from deep on the left wing tied the game at 68 and sparked the Cardinals on a late run that lead to a 71-64 victory at the Amway Center.

"I got open and found a gap in the zone after they played 36 minutes of stifling defense," Smith said. "I was able to get a pretty good look off and after that I was able find Luke twice in a row when I was penetrating the defense."

Smith did follow up his three-pointer with back-to-back assists on three-pointers by Hancock, who scored eight in a row in the 16-6 run to end the contest.

But it was Smith's three that saved the day.

"You don't want to say you get nervous, but I was getting nervous," Wayne Blackshear said. "Russ made another big shot for us."

Smith finished 3 of 9 from the field and 11 of 15 from the free-throw line. He had 18 points, three rebounds, three assists, two steals and six turnovers in 35 minutes.

After the game, Smith said he felt like he had been in a heavyweight fight.

"Going all the way back to the SMU game, it has just been ridiculous on me (his body)," Smith said. "But as long as we win, that's fine.

"I jammed (the thumb) pretty bad, early in the first half. But that's just the few of a lot of minor injuries. A little knee bump, back, ankle, thumb, everything just hurts."

Smith became the school's all-time leader in steals with 256 for his career, passing Peyton Siva's old mark of 256. He has 1,874 career points and ranks fifth all-time, while he now has 479 made free throws and ranks second behind LaBradford Smith (491) in that category.

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