DALLAS — Louisville guard Russ Smith was a perfect 6-for-6 from 3-point range in an 84-71 win over No. 18 SMU on Wednesday night.
Smith led a barrage of 3-pointers in the second half as Louisville (No. 11 AP/No. 9 USA Today) handed SMU its first loss at home this season.
Smith scored 26 points, on 9-of-15 shooting, to push the Cardinals (25-5, 14-3) to a half-game lead over Cincinnati for first place in the American Conference.
“He was sick tonight and he just came through in a big way,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. “That was a Michael Jordan-type performance in terms of being sick and gutting it out.”
Smith was just 1-of-5 shooting with no 3-pointers in the first half. He shook off the effects of an upset stomach to catch fire in the second half.
“Russ Smith was phenomenal,” SMU coach Larry Brown said. “Rick did a great job of putting him in position to get shots, but I thought some of his shots were pretty well defended. But you’ve just got to give it to him. He was remarkable.”
Louisville made 13 shots from beyond the arc, including eight 3-pointers in the second half. Guard Chris Jones was 4-for-7 from 3-point range for 21 points and guard Luke Hancock hit three treys to score 15.
With former President George W. Bush sitting courtside, Louisville snared 17 steals and forced 23 turnovers by SMU (23-7, 12-5).
“We had a lot of turnovers, a lot of silly mistakes that we made that contributed to their fast break,” SMU forward Shawn Williams said. “We just didn’t play our best game tonight.”
Louisville connected on four 3-pointers in a three-minute span to push its lead to 55-47 with 10:20 to play.
The Mustangs answered with a 7-0 run, ending with a 3-pointer by guard Keith Frazier, to pull within one, 55-54, with 8:30 left.
That was as close as SMU would get as Louisville countered every SMU challenge with another bomb from 3-point land.
Point guard Nic Moore, SMU’s catalyst, was limited to five points and four assists in only 19 minutes of action because of foul trouble. Guard Nick Russell led SMU with 18 points.
“We weren’t prepared the way they were, and that’s on me,” Brown said. “We didn’t handle their press. We didn’t handle their intensity at all.”
SMU, now 15-1 at home, saw a 14-point lead evaporate in the first half. SMU was bidding for its first undefeated season at home since 1955-56.
“We’ve been playing great basketball all season, nothing has changed really,” SMU’s Russell said. “We just let this one slip away.”
Louisville withstood an early blitz from SMU and rallied back to take a 32-30 lead at halftime.
SMU, feeding off the energy of its record seventh sellout crowd (7,305), broke out to an 18-5 lead in the first nine minutes, capped by a 12-0 run.
SMU pushed its advantage to 26-12 with seven minutes to go in the half while Louisville struggled from the field. Williams led the Mustangs in the first half with eight points.
Then Louisville began to get hot from outside and went on a 15-0 run to post a 27-26 lead with 3:37 left in the half.
Jones finished the run with his third 3-pointer of the half. Hancock added two 3-pointers during the rally.
“It was very difficult and our guys responded in a big way,” Pitino said. “They played a terrific 10 minutes in the first half and finished it off with really good plays at both ends of the floor. I was real proud of our guys because this was a difficult environment.”
NOTES: Wednesday’s game marked SMU’s first home game between ranked opponents since the same teams met on Feb. 16, 1985. No. 9 SMU defeated No. 19 Louisville 72-64 that day. … The game was also the second collegiate matchup between Hall of Fame coaches Larry Brown of SMU and Rick Pitino of Louisville. SMU lost at Louisville 71-63 on Jan. 12. The two coaches went head-to-head 17 times in the NBA, with Brown holding a 11-6 advantage. … Louisville was playing its final road game of the season. The Cardinals had won seven of their last
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