Louisville, Ky. • Russ Smith ranked Louisville's 80-77 victory over Kentucky on Saturday as one of the five favorites of his career.
Makes sense, considering he played a key role in ending the No. 4 Cardinals' four-game losing streak against the rival Wildcats.
Smith scored 21 points, including five of Louisville's final 13, and grabbed seven rebounds to help the Cardinals hold off Kentucky in an up-and-down game.
The effort comes nearly a year after he came off the bench to score 30 in the Cardinals' 69-62 loss to the Wildcats in Lexington, one of two defeats last season to their in-state rivals that included last season's national semifinal. Kentucky went on to win its eighth national championship.
"This one probably ranks as one of the top five biggest wins of my life," said the junior guard, whose list includes last season's NCAA regional final, the round of 16 and Louisville's two wins that clinched the Big East Conference championship last March.
"We know where we messed up and we know the mistakes we made, but at the end of the day it's a win. It's not a conference win, but it's a great nonconference win. It's a great win for the city. We're actually more happy for our fans than for ourselves. ... I guess revenge is the word, but it feels good beating the team that knocked you out of the Final Four."
Especially since that team, Kentucky (8-4), resides about 80 miles east and had recently owned the Battle of the Bluegrass. Louisville (12-1) now has bragging rights, and Smith had help in getting them for the Cardinals. Sophomore forward Chane Behanan had 20 points, seven rebounds and three steals, including a steal of Archie Goodwin's pass that led to his dunk with 18 seconds remaining that sealed the victory.
No. 1 Duke 90, Santa Clara 77 • In Durham, N.C., Seth Curry scored 12 of his season-high 31 points during the late run that helped Duke (12-0) pull away for a victory over pesky Santa Clara. Mason Plumlee had 22 points and 13 rebounds for the Blue Devils.
North Carolina 79, No. 20 UNLV 73 • In Chapel Hill, N.C., P.J. Hairston scored 15 points in his first career start for North Carolina (10-3). Dexter Strickland added a season-high 16 points for the Tar Heels (10-3), who turned away a second-half surge by the Runnin' Rebels (11-2) to earn the program's 63rd straight home win against nonconference opponents.
• No. 1 Duke 90,Santa Clara 77
• No. 2 Michigan 88, Central Michigan 73
• No. 4 Louisville 80, Kentucky 77
• No. 6 Kansas 89, American 57
• No. 9 Syracuse 57,Alcorn State 36
• No. 10 Ohio State 87, Chicago State 44
• No. 12 Illinois 81, Auburn 79
• No. 14 Florida 78, Air Force 61
• No. 16 Creighton 87, Evansville 70
• North Carolina 79, No. 20 UNLV 73
• No. 23 N.C. State 84, Western Michigan 68
• No. 25 Kansas State 52, UMKC 44