A relentless Louisville defense forced 27 turnovers as the fifth-ranked Cardinals romped to a surprisingly easy 80-38 win over Charleston in their first true road game of the season.
Wayne Blackshear, who was looking noticeably trim in black, led the way for U of L with 18 points in just 21 minutes. Three other Cards scored in double figures including Russ Smith, who finished the night with more assists (4) than made shots (3). Without doing any research, I'm going to go ahead and say that's the first time that's happened this season. He also had four steals, second on the team behind Peyton Siva's five.
Aside from this being Louisville's first road game of the season, this was a Charleston team that's pretty good. They were picked to finish behind only Davidson in their SoCon division, and already turned heads by winning at Baylor on Thanksgiving week.
The Cards were only 9.5-point favorites for a reason, and even when they led by 20 at the break you had a sense that Charleston would make the game at least respectable. Then you look up and Russ is making crazy behind-the-back moves on fast break finishes, Stephan Van Treese (TREESEMBER) is coming from out-of-nowhere- for a monster follow up dunk, and Zach Price is making back-to-back hook shots and forcing turnovers on the other end.
Missouri is a better team than the Charleston, but it's still hard to not call this the best combination of effort and execution that we've seen from Louisville so far this season. It's remarkable to me how hard these guys go for 40 minutes, and that's why - regardless of what they end up doing in the NCAA Tournament - it's hard not to see this squad going down as an all-time fan favorite.
Complete recap coming in the morning.