The Cards fought through a challenging first-half Saturday to beat Butler 69-53. The game was the Cards first on the road and their first real test of the season, facing the two year National Runner-Up Bulldogs.
Early in the first-half the Cards gave up a number of second chance buckets and three early three-pointers sunk by sharpshooter Chase Stigall.
The Cards battled through though and took a 29-28 lead at half on Jared Swopshire’s runner with three seconds left.
In the first half the Cards hit their stride when Butler big-man Andrew Smith got into foul trouble 10 minutes in. Louisville showed strong interior passing and found their big guys to get some easy buckets. The Cards also got to the line and even though they didn’t shoot well at the stripe they were active on offense in drawing fouls.
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Peyton Siva was on the bench, but didn’t play as he looks to recover from an ankle sprain. Russ Smith and Elisha Justice ran the point for most of the game, but both struggled turning the ball over and picking up cheap fouls.
Shorthanded the Cards came alive in the second half as seniors Chris Smith and Kyle Kuric picked it up and dominated on offense.
Smith got in the lane and picked up a pair of and 1s in the second half converting both free throws and hit a big three to put the Cards ahead. Kuric then took over on offense hitting a pull up jumper in the lane and sinking a big three pointer. Smith finished with 15 points, 13 coming in the second half and Kuric finished with 17 scoring 12 in the second half.
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Gorgui Dieng and Chane Behanan played well all game in the post, with Dieng showing his ability to block shots and Behanan hustling on the boards.
The Cards struggled to inbound the ball on the offensive baseline and will have to work on that part of the game moving forward. Getting Siva back will no doubt help that area of the game.
Khyle Marshall had a big game for the Bulldogs, hustling on the glass and scoring inside and out. Marshall finished with 20 points and Stigall had 11, the only Butler players to finish in double figures.
The Cards were shorthanded, but proved to be too much for the Bulldogs. Louisville stepped up in the second half and showed that their conditioning is paying off early in the season.
The Cards next game is back at home on Tuesday. Check back with StraitCards for hoop updates and a preview of Tuesdays match up with Arkansas State.