It wasn’t a pretty 40 minutes, but Louisville (13-2, 1-1) did what it needed to do to beat St. John’s (7-7, 1-2) 73-58 in Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night. The Cards used swarming defense, good 3 point shooting, and a 2nd half run to extend the lead to 26 to put this game away. It was encouraging to see the team play much better than on Saturday. It was clearly a different level opponent, but this is just what they needed.
Russ Smith led the Cards in scoring with 17 points on 5-15 shooting. We knew he could score, so what is more impressive were the 7 assists he dished out. Whether it was in transition or penetrating the lane, Russ wasn’t always looking for his shot first. Smith combined with Kevin Ware to give the Cards a spark on both ends of the court. They are both very quick and were good in the open court. Ware played 16 minutes and had 4 assists, showing flashes of how good he can be with more time.
Kyle Kuric seemed to snap out of his one game slump. He scored 15 points, getting open almost the whole game in his corner and knocking down three 3 pointers. He was also very active in other aspects of the game, grabbing 5 rebounds, getting deflections, blocking a shot, and altering a dunk.
Gorgui Dieng was his usual consistent self. He finished with 12 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 blocks in 35 minutes. He continues to prove his value to this team, especially without a true backup at his position. Jared Swopshire played 19 solid minutes. He only scored 4 points but he pulled down 9 rebounds in that short amount of time. He played well against UK also, so hopefully this is a trend that continues the rest of the season if Swopshire gets the playing time.
Louisville played 10 guys total, while St. John’s only used 7. Like we said, the Red Storm are very young, and their inexperience showed at times. UofL pressed almost the whole game, and while it only contributed to 12 turnovers, it sped the Red Storm up. St. John’s forced a lot of quick shots, mostly ones they missed, and this led to the Cards getting their transition game going. St. John’s finished the game shooting 18-64, 28.1%.
Some other key stats were 3 pointers and assists. The Cards shot 9-22 (40.9%) from 3, while St. John’s only made 2-16 (12.5%). That is a difference of 21 points just from that stat. UofL had 22 assists on 26 shots made. St. John’s only had 9 assists on their 18 shots made. So UofL had more assists than the Red Storm had field goals made.
Louisville will now turn their attention to Notre Dame, who will come into the KFC Yum! Center for a game this Saturday at 4:00. The Fighting Irish are 9-5 (1-0) and face Cincinnati on Wednesday night.