HARTFORD, Conn. — Louisville waited 20 minutes to prove the Cardinals deserved the No. 1 ranking.
It took the same amount of time for their guards to show they could be the best backcourt in the country even when they don’t spend all that much time together on the court.
Russ Smith had 23 points and Peyton Siva managed 11 in a foul-plagued 22 minutes and the Cardinals, playing just hours after they moved to the top of the poll, beat Connecticut 73-58 on Monday night.
The Cardinals (16-1, 4-0 Big East) won their 11th straight game and like the others they relied on their star backcourt and pressure defense.
Siva, the conference preseason Player of the Year, picked up his second foul just 3:47 into the game. Not only did the Cardinals lose a veteran leader when the senior went out but Smith, the leading scorer at 18.7 points per game, had to assume more of a role in running the offense. It didn’t hurt his scoring much, though, as he had 15 points on seven-of-13 shooting as Connecticut took a 34-28 halftime lead.
Siva picked up his third foul with 14:21 to play in the game and he returned to the bench. When he came back in the game with 10 minutes left, Smith went to the bench for treatment. Siva hit a 3-pointer 50 seconds later as part of the game-changing 19-5 run.
“We did a good job of weathering a Peyton Siva storm, with him out," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. “Once he came back and we weathered that storm, we were able to play much better defense and much better offense."
In another game on Monday:
No. 4 Kansas 61
LAWRENCE, Kan. — Ben McLemore scored 17 points before leaving in the final minutes with a right ankle injury, and Kansas rolled to a victory over Baylor. McLemore hit a 3-pointer and then scored an alley-oop dunk off a feed from Elijah Johnson to make it 61-42 with 2:44 remaining. The Jayhawks were back on offense when the freshman appeared to turn his ankle.