Russ Smith to the fans: "I'm so sorry"

INDIANAPOLIS - An emotional University of Louisville senior Russ Smith met with the media after Friday night's loss to Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament and told the fans, "I'm so sorry." Smith had 23 points to lead the Cardinals.

University of Louisville senior All-American Russ Smith had so many good memories during his career with the Cardinals.

Smith helped the Cardinals to a pair of Final Fours, winning last year's national title and back to the Sweet 16 this season.

But on Friday night, Smith sat in his locker at Lucas Oil Stadium and said, "I'm so sorry," in a message to the U of L fans.

Smith had 23 points against Kentucky, becoming the school's all-time leading scorer in NCAA Tournament games - passing Milt Wagner - but it wasn't enough in a 74-69 loss to the Wildcats.

"It's hard to believe it's over," said Smith, who reportedly went to UK's locker room after the game and shook the hand of each player.

Smith was 9 of 20 from the field with three assists, two rebounds and one steal. He was just 1 of 7 from three-point range and 4 of 10 on free throws in the loss.

"We've had a great run," Smith said. "Going back, just all the championships and stuff speak for itself. We have had a great run, but it's over now. It is what it is. It's tough, it's tough. I'll probably feel this one in the next day or so even worse when I have to get up and become a man and do things by myself.

"But it is what it is and I love my teammates. In the end, the free-throw line in the first half cost us. That really cost us."

After a few minutes of answering questions from reporters, Smith was very emotional when he said it would take him long to move on because "I don't hold onto losses."

"I don't hold grudges," he said. "I don't hate anybody. I'm a positive person and I will go on. I have to go on. At the end of they day, this was a loss. But I just empathize with the fans. I wish I could've given them the win."

Smith then took a pause: "I'm so sorry. I'm sorry. But for me, we lost to a great team. And I have great respect for them. I'm just glad that I have a lot of respect around the state . . . and people respect my craft and my body of work."

For his career, Smith finishes as the No. 1 player on the all-time steals list at U of L and is No. 5 on the scoring list.

"I love my teammates," he said. "I'm glad to have gotten to play a part in their lives, from my teammates to managers to trainers to new freshmen, I'm grateful to be able to pass some stuff onto them. I'm glad that I've gotten to meet all the people that I've met here.

"It's been a lot of fun and I'm glad I have Coach Pitino in my life. He's helped shape me into a man. He's made me the player I am. I was looked at as kind of a clown basketball player. Everyone thought I was a joke. And he transformed me into an All-American basketball player."

And then Smith ended, "It's tough. But I have to take this loss like a man."

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