Apr 7, 2013, 1:55 PM EDT
ATLANTA — On Saturday night, we got a glimpse of Russ Smith in all his glory.
His dizzyingly-talented, frustratingly inconsistent glory.
He shot 6-17 from the floor. He was 5-12 from the free throw line, missing the first four free throws of the game and two of six in the final minute, which left the door open for the Shockers down the stretch. He had four first half turnovers and five on the game. He played as terribly as he had all season long for about the first 10 minutes of the game, but he never stopped attacking. He never stopped being aggressive. He never hesitated when he saw a gap in the Wichita State defense or had space on the perimeter to fire up a three.
That’s who he is. That’s Russdiculous.
“I stay aggressive. I don’t change my game for anything,” Smith said on Sunday. “We had two games left. If I keep the same game-plan and play the same way, eventually the shots are going to go in. That’s the way I feel.”
And it paid off for the Cardinals on Saturday. Smith finished with 21 points and made some key plays late in the first half to keep Wichita State from pulling away, and his defense was a major factor in Malcolm Armstead’s nightmare performance. Armstead was 1-8 from the floor last night.
That’s what you get when Smith plays.
And it’s taken a while for Pitino to learn that, to learn that Smith isn’t going to change.
“I don’t even bother [yelling at him] because he doesn’t listen to a word I say,” Pitino said.
But here’s the thing: he has. As out of control as Smith has looked at times this season, as crazy as some of those shots that he took last night appeared to people that hadn’t watched Smith play at all this season or in his three years at Louisville, he’s dialed it down this year. He’s making better decisions. He doesn’t shoot the ball every time he touches it this year. He’s making better decisions. He’s becoming more efficient. That’s why he’s an all-american as a junior after a sophomore campaign where he was more of a sideshow than an NBA Draft prospect and a freshman season where he played so few minutes Smith nearly transferred.
He had his bags packed, but a teammate convinced him to show up for a January 26th game against West Virginia. Smith had regular boxers on instead of compression shorts. He wasn’t taped up. Instead of his wearing multiple pairs of socks, he had on just one pair. He happened to play nine minutes that night, but if he didn’t, who knows what would have happened.
Perhaps more than anything else, the reason for Smith’s development has been Pitino’s acceptance that Russ is always going to be Russ. He understands that, on the whole, Smith does more good than bad. Trying to control him isn’t going to make him a better player. You can channel that aggressiveness and eliminate some of the worst shots, but taking away Smith’s aggressiveness would nullify his usefulness.
Pitino gets that.
Barely in control just the way that Russ plays.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.
Apr 22, 2014, 11:08 PM EDT
The UTEP coach is now a candidate to replace Frank Haith at Missouri.
Apr 22, 2014, 10:10 PM EDT
Virginia got its fourth commit on Tuesday night.
Apr 22, 2014, 9:09 PM EDT
A look back on UConn’s second title in four years.
Apr 22, 2014, 8:05 PM EDT
The Southern coach is receiving a contract extension.
Apr 22, 2014, 7:15 PM EDT
Loyd is converting from point guard to wide receiver.
Apr 22, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT
The Bulls announced the fifth departure this spring.
Apr 22, 2014, 5:45 PM EDT
Austin will leave Waco after two seasons.
Apr 22, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT
Andrew Wiggins is the most searched athlete in two states, according to a recent study.
Apr 22, 2014, 4:04 PM EDT
Ron Hunter is loading up on talented transfers
Apr 22, 2014, 2:43 PM EDT
Auburn will accept the punishment that has been given to Pearl by the NCAA.
Apr 22, 2014, 1:57 PM EDT
Kentucky is still waiting for a decision from four players.
Apr 22, 2014, 1:18 PM EDT
Darius is the younger brother of former Illini guard Brandon Paul.
Apr 22, 2014, 11:52 AM EDT
The ACC schedule is what happens when leagues get too big.
Apr 22, 2014, 10:55 AM EDT
Ivan Rabb is the best big man in a loaded class of bigs, according to Rivals.
Apr 22, 2014, 9:53 AM EDT
K.J. McDaniels might win an NBA dunk contest one day.
Apr 22, 2014, 9:40 AM EDT
Cauley-Stein will be out for a couple of months.
Apr 21, 2014, 11:54 PM EDT
Indiana assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Kenny Johnson is moving on to Louisville.
Apr 21, 2014, 10:33 PM EDT
Tennessee found its man on Monday night as the Vols hired Southern Miss coach Donnie Tyndall.
Apr 21, 2014, 9:46 PM EDT
LSU freshman forward Jordan Mickey is still deciding whether or not to enter the 2014 NBA Draft.
Apr 21, 2014, 8:53 PM EDT
Duke landed an impact transfer on Monday with Rice big man Sean Obi.
- Auburn will not appeal Bruce Pearl’s show-cause penalty 2
- Kentucky freshman Julius Randle has formally declared for the NBA Draft 0
- ACC’s league schedule highlights the flaws of massive power conferences 4
- Report: Tennessee hires Southern Miss coach Donnie Tyndall 1
- Rice transfer Sean Obi commits to Duke 1
- Adam Silver says raising NBA’s age limit a top priority 6
- NCAA council aims to change immediate eligibility waiver policy 0
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- Reports: Missouri’s Frank Haith agrees to take the Tulsa job (11)
- Jabari Parker is headed to the NBA (9)
- Report: New Mexico State’s Sim Bhullar to enter 2014 NBA Draft (7)
- Former Marquette commits Ahmed Hill, Satchel Pierce follow Buzz Williams to Virginia Tech (7)