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.
Mar 27, 2015, 8:32 PM EDT
Class of 2015 five-star center Diamond Stone committed during a surprise announcement on Friday night.
Mar 27, 2015, 8:30 PM EDT
UNLV freshman Rashad Vaughn addresses NBA Draft rumors.
Mar 27, 2015, 8:28 PM EDT
One of three assists in the first half for Cat Barber.
Mar 27, 2015, 7:45 PM EDT
Aaron Harrison left Thursday night’s game briefly with a finger injury.
Mar 27, 2015, 6:50 PM EDT
For the second time this month, the Indiana athletic director backed the school’s head coach.
Mar 27, 2015, 6:00 PM EDT
Arizona hasn’t been to the Final Four since 2001, but all involved are focused on Wisconsin and not that streak.
Mar 27, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT
Frazier is projected as a second round pick.
Mar 27, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT
The 6-foot-7 forward has two years of eligibility left.
Mar 27, 2015, 3:36 PM EDT
Rick Barnes has been with Texas for 17 seasons.
Mar 27, 2015, 2:39 PM EDT
Lavin had been with the St. John’s program for five years.
Mar 27, 2015, 1:31 PM EDT
Prohm was one of the hottest names on the coaching carousel.
Mar 27, 2015, 1:15 PM EDT
Nigel Hayes has become a national sensation this tournament.
Mar 27, 2015, 12:43 PM EDT
Two transfers in one week is not a good thing.
Mar 27, 2015, 11:20 AM EDT
It’s pretty cool to see this process in action.
Mar 27, 2015, 10:31 AM EDT
Forbes spent two years as an assistant at Wichita State.
Mar 27, 2015, 9:08 AM EDT
Tennessee has parted ways with head coach Donnie Tyndall after only one season.
Tourney Snacks: Kentucky, Notre Dame win in Midwest; Arizona, Wisconsin advance to set up Elite Eight rematch
Mar 27, 2015, 1:45 AM EDT
The Elite Eight will feature a rematch in the West Regional between Arizona and Wisconsin and Kentucky battling Notre Dame in the Midwest Regional.
Mar 27, 2015, 1:00 AM EDT
Kentucky’s win also means that the Big 12 is down to one team: Oklahoma.
Mar 27, 2015, 12:59 AM EDT
Arizona played slightly better on both ends of the floor in the second half, and they’ll take on No. 1 Wisconsin as a result.
Mar 27, 2015, 12:48 AM EDT
If you are going to talk, you better be able to back it up
- Sources: Rick Barnes not expected to return to Texas 5
- Steve Lavin and St. John’s ‘mutually agree’ to part ways 1
- No. 2 Arizona pulls away from No. 6 Xavier, setting up West regional final rematch 0
- No. 3 Notre Dame knocks off No. 7 Wichita State to get to the Elite 8 17
- Tradition of success through change raises expectations at Xavier 1
- Sweet 16 Preview: The top 16 players left in the tournament 11
- Sweet 16 Preview: The x-factor in each game this week 1
- Kentucky’s John Calipari is the National Coach of the Year, and it’s not close (36)
- Kentucky responds to Daxter Miles Jr.’s pregame comments (30)
- Updated tournament records: Kentucky moves SEC above .500 (23)
- West Virginia freshman on Kentucky: ‘They’re going to be 36-1′ (20)
- NCAA’s Mark Emmert calls Indiana’s religious freedom bill ‘especially concerning’ (20)