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Louisville needs their role players to step up

Mar 1, 2014, 5:52 PM EDT

SMU v Louisville Getty Images

Montrezl Harrell played arguably his best game in a Louisville jersey on Saturday, taking over for long stretches of the second half and finishing with 25 points, 12 boards and three steals while shooting 11-for-17 from the floor.

Russ Smith was just as dominant in the first half, scoring 14 of his 19 points and finishing with five assists, five boards and three steals.

Luke Hancock didn’t play his best game of the season, but he did finish with 11 points and three assists.

The rest of the Louisville roster? 11 points, 3-for-19 from the floor.

And therein lies the issue for Louisville. They cannot be a three-man team and expect to be elite.

Here’s the kicker: Louisville still should have won on Saturday at No. 21 Memphis. They lost 72-66 after giving up a 15-1 run in the final three minutes. That’s how close Rick Pitino’s club came to knocking off a top 25 team on the road despite getting nothing out of their role players.

And this loss will hurt.

Louisville had a chance to take over first place in the American with Cincinnati’s loss at UConn earlier today.

The Cards have been one of the most improved teams in the country during the season, but much of that improvement came as Louisville was beating up on some of the lesser teams in the league. Their last two games in the regular season are at SMU and against UConn at home. Louisville had Memphis all-but beat on Saturday, but we’ll get a real feel for just how good this team is in their next two games.

What was the fluke? Taking control on the road despite having just three guys play well, or blowing a late lead to a top 25 team on the road?