Nassau, Bahamas (4E Sports) – Russ Smith completed a three-point play in the dying seconds of the game to carry No. 2 Louisville to a hard-earned 51-46 victory over Northern Iowa Thursday in the opening round of the Battle 4 Atlantis at Imperial Arena.
Smith tallied 16 points, five rebounds, five assists and four steals in 32 minutes as the Cardinals notched their fourth win in as many games.
Peyton Siva scored seven while Wayne Blackshear, Gorgui Dieng and Luke Hancock added six apiece for the Cardinals. Dieng also had nine board and three blocks for coach Rick Pitino.
Louisville captured the win despite shooting 19-for-62 from the field for 30.6 percent while the Panthers buried 16 of 46 attempts for 34.8 percent. The Cardinals dominated the boards (46-28), issued more assists (12-8) and had more steals (13-9).
“I think they scouted us perfectly. I think they did a really good job taking away all our pick and rolls, packing it in,” Pitino said after the victory. “But we also played excellent defense and made big plays. We knew this was going to be a war and was going to go down to the buzzer.”
The Cardinals tackle No. 13 Missouri Friday in the semifinal round. The Tigers defeated Stanford, 78-70, to advance.
Marc Sonnen scored 11 and Jake Koch added 10 markers, five rebounds and three swats for the Panthers, who dropped to 3-1.
Despite a paltry 27-percent clip from the field and 10 turnovers, the Cardinals took a 26-20 at the break.
In the second half, Louisville then extended its lead to 40-22, but the Panthers unleashed a 22-5 blast, capped by two foul shots by Koch, to close in at 45-44 with two minutes left.
Then, Dieng scored on a layup and Hancock added a foul shot for a 48-44 Louisville lead before the Panthers closed in for the last time at 48-46 behind Koch’s two free throws.
Smith then capped the win with a three-point play off a foul by Anthony James.