The No. 2 Louisville Cardinals knocked off the 13th-ranked Missouri Tigers by a 84-61 margin to advance to the finals of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament on Friday night.
The win is the fifth straight to begin the 2012 campaign for the Cardinals and the first loss for the Tigers.
Cardinals guard Russ Smith led all scorers with 18 points. He also added seven rebounds and four dimes for the victors. Phil Pressey of the Tigers and Alex Oriakhi led the way for the Tigers with 15 points apiece.
Louisville didn’t exactly light it up in the first half, but it played great defense and pressed the Tigers into submission in the second half. The Cardinals' tempo was definitely the difference in this one.
Missouri didn’t go quietly into the night, though. They closed the Cardinals’ lead to 39-35 after just one minute into the second half. Louisville bounced back and went off on an 11-0 run to build its biggest lead (15 points) of the game to that point.
The Cards then built the lead back up to 15 again with about 10 minutes to play and then turned on cruise control to the finish line. Missouri, tired from the tempo and tenacious Cardinals defense, didn’t have the firepower to mount much of a comeback at that point.
Louisville walked away with a hard-fought but impressive performance.
Before the game, Duke knocked off VCU to punch its own ticket to Saturday night's Battle 4 Atlantis finals:
NBCSportsPR (@NBCSportsPR) November 24, 2012
A couple of fans got upgraded to the #betterseats for the Louisville vs. Missouri matchup:
Kathryn Lucchesi, editor of the official Mizzou football website, shared the Mizzou cheerleaders getting everyone amped back at College Station prior to tipoff:
Lucchesi (@KatLucchesi) November 24, 2012
Dana O'Neil of ESPN pointed out a bit of the obvious:
But dang is Louisville defense relentless. May be better than last year.— Dana O'Neil (@ESPNDanaOneil) November 24, 2012
A parody account named "Not Jerry Tipton" summed up the first half for the Louisville Cardinals:
Great job by Louisville getting pretty much any shot they want. Terrible job by Louisville missing pretty much all those shots.— Not Jerry Tipton (@NotJerryTipton) November 24, 2012
Louisville baseball got in on the action as the Cardinals pulled away in the second half:
Louisville has largest crowd at Battle 4 Atlantis. Playing in semifinal vs Mizzou on NBCsports.— Louisville Baseball (@UofLBaseball) November 24, 2012
Calvin Pryor of the Cardinals football team made a bold statement:
Andy Katz of ESPN worries about the ratings of Saturday night's final:
Duke-Louisville is a classic matchup. Too bad it's up against Notre Dame-USC -- in football with a title berth on the line.— Andy Katz (@ESPNAndyKatz) November 24, 2012
Player of the Game: Russ Smith, G, Louisville
Smith had a tremendous game, leading all scorers. He was the biggest volume shooter, by far, taking 17 shots from the field. He connected on just 41 percent from the field due to a lousy 14 percent from beyond the arc.
The Louisville guard made up for it though by adding seven boards and four assists and also snagging a game-high six steals. His tenacious play helped fuel a stifling Cardinals defense that shut down the Tigers.
Louisville will face Duke on Saturday night in the finals of the Battle 4 Atlantis Thanksgiving weekend college hoops tournament.
Also, the Tigers will have a third-place consolation game against VCU on Saturday night.