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 9, 2014, 2:47 PM EDT
No. 5 Virginia lost their first game since January. Just how concerned should be be about the Cavaliers? Are they still in contention for a No. 1 seed?
Mar 9, 2014, 2:12 PM EDT
Get to know the second entry into the 2014 NCAA Tournament field, the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers.
Mar 9, 2014, 2:08 PM EDT
The CAA Tournament semifinal will take place on Sunday afternoon in Baltimore. The first semi will be between CAA regular season champion Delaware and a Northeastern team that can count a win over Georgetown on their resume. You can watch the game live on NBC Sports Live Extra. The first semifinal will tip off at…
Mar 9, 2014, 1:15 PM EDT
MEAC favorite North Carolina Central looks to avoid the chaos of last season’s tournament, in which the top three seeds all lost in the quarterfinals.
Mar 9, 2014, 1:05 PM EDT
The sophomore forward is still unsure if he will return to action this season, only appearing in eight games due to a back injury.
Mar 9, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
The 7-foot center has missed the last two games for the Kansas. The Jayhawks have won the Big 12 title, but have dropped two of their last three games heading into the conference tournament
Mar 9, 2014, 10:33 AM EDT
After spending almost two full decades at IUPUI, Todd Howard was let go following two straight 6-26 seasons.
Mar 9, 2014, 9:40 AM EDT
Three more teams will punch tickets to the Big Dance on Sunday, including Wichita State if the Shockers can get past Indiana State and improve to 34-0
Mar 9, 2014, 3:10 AM EDT
No. 4 Duke and No. 10 San Diego State picked up big home wins, and Eastern Kentucky became the second team into the NCAA tournament field on a busy Saturday.
Mar 9, 2014, 12:56 AM EDT
New Mexico led by 16 with 12:05 remaining. And then their inability to adjust to San Diego State’s 1-3-1 zone cost them the Mountain West title.
Mar 9, 2014, 12:50 AM EDT
No. 10 San Diego State overcomes a 16-point second half deficit as they knock off No. 21 New Mexico and bring home a Mountain West title. But should that change how we view the Aztecs?
Mar 9, 2014, 12:09 AM EDT
North Carolina shot nearly 60%, but getting whipped on the boards cost them dearly at Cameron.
Mar 8, 2014, 11:56 PM EDT
Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood both went off for No. 4 Duke as the Blue Devils smacked around North Carolina. Does that mean we can call them a Final Four team again?
Mar 8, 2014, 11:16 PM EDT
Get caught up on all of Saturday’s bubble action
Mar 8, 2014, 9:38 PM EDT
Creighton’s senior forward scored his 3,000th career point on Saturday night. Only seven other players have reached that total.
Mar 8, 2014, 9:24 PM EDT
Get to know the second entry into the 2014 NCAA Tournament field, the Eastern Kentucky Colonels.
Mar 8, 2014, 7:49 PM EDT
No. 3 Arizona hasn’t been the best perimeter shooting team, but they’ve been able to make up for that on most days. That wasn’t the case against Oregon, and the struggles of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Gabe York didn’t help either.
Mar 8, 2014, 7:09 PM EDT
Texas A&M celebrated Senior Day on Saturday and it included honoring former high school signee Tobi Oyedeji, who was tragically killed in a car accident in 2010 and never played for the school.
Mar 8, 2014, 6:45 PM EDT
Oregon wins its seventh straight, and the Ducks likely punched their ticket to the NCAA tournament with the win over No. 3 Arizona.
Mar 8, 2014, 6:15 PM EDT
No. 19 UConn has struggled to crack 70 points during a recent six-game stretch and it could lead to an early exit for the Huskies in the postseason.
- Jabari Parker, Rodney Hood score 54 in No. 4 Duke’s win over No. 14 UNC 0
- Bubble Banter: Oregon, Tennessee headline Saturday’s early winners 0
- Creighton’s Doug McDermott scores his 3,000th point (VIDEO) 0
- Oregon’s big win over No. 3 Arizona caps impressive regular season turnaround 1
- No. 8 Kansas loses, but The Andrew Wiggins Show is what’s important 1
- No. 1 Florida’s undefeated SEC season not just a by-product of their league 5
- Harvard wraps up third consecutive NCAA tournament berth (VIDEO) 0
- No. 7 Syracuse falls to Georgia Tech in a shocking home loss (9)
- College Basketball Talk’s latest Top 25 (6)
- Assigned Reading: Dean Smith’s health continues to deteriorate (6)
- For the first time in months, No. 22 Michigan State and Keith Appling look healthy (6)
- Bracketology: Eight teams in play for No. 1 seeds (6)