Louisville Pressure Smothers Rutgers Late

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Early Rutgers momentum came crashing down in a hurry in an 83-76 loss to 14th ranked Louisville. All-America candidate Russ Smith struggled early, but finished with 22 points to lead the Cardinals past Rutgers, which got 19 from junior guard Myles Mack.

Rutgers has a week off of action, and captain Myles Mack will likely spend the majority of it fighting off nightmares caused by Louisville's full-court press.

After catching Louisville on a slow start, Rutgers put an early scare into the defending national champions before the turnovers started. And when the turnovers started, they never stopped.

"I think we did a very good job of getting back in the game with our press," said Louisville coach Rick Pitino. "In the beginning we got behind because we took some bad shots. They got some easy buckets. Then we starting taking good shots and we got a lot of steals because of it."

Mack was the primary ball handler for Rutgers against the press, and came up on the worse end by tying a career high in turnovers. Rutgers finished with 19 turnovers – a season worst.

"In their pressure defense, they just had us rattled," said Rutgers coach Eddie Jordan. "They did a good job coming up and pursuing. They challenge you to finish. There are times to break the press and finish. There are times to break the press and be organized, and we got caught in between not knowing which one to do."

Rutgers led by as many as eight points in the first half before Louisville's pressure locked in on a roster that had no answer. In large part to 12 first-half turnovers, Louisville turned a tie game into a near blowout with a 31-11 run through halftime.

Trying to hang around, Rutgers inspired some level of hope when a Jerome Seagears steal led to a Junior Etou layup and 66-59 score. Rutgers succumbed to shortly thereafter, however, as guard Russ Smith put it back to double digits on a coast-to-coast layup.

"I think they are very physical and play very hard," Pitino said on Rutgers. "With the new rules, we all have to get adjusted to moving our feet. I think Eddie Jordan was almost the perfect hire. He is going to do a great job. Not only was he a great player, but a great guy and a great coach. Rutgers will turn around with him at the helm because they will take great pride in the program."

Star guards Smith and Mack made for big plays offensively, and were the stars of a long, sloppy contest in front of 7,263 at the RAC. Smith led all scorers with 22, including 10 in the final three minutes.

Mack takes the hit on the stat sheet with turnovers issues, but many came because of miscommunications elsewhere. The 5-foot-9 junior guard was one of the biggest factors keeping things close. His 19 points led Rutgers. Junior forward Craig Brown gave a career-high 17 off the bench in the loss.

"We fought hard," said Rutgers senior J.J. Moore. "This is one of our best games yet. … We played great defense coming up, and we just felt like we didn't get the calls we wanted. At the end of the day, we played really hard and we'll just move on to the next game."

Rutgers (7-8, 1-1) gets a week off to work on its ball security before traveling to Cincinnati. Louisville (13-2, 2-0) hosts Memphis Thursday in its home American opener.

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