TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Rick Pitino spoke, and Russ Smith listened.
Inspired by a morning conversation with his coach, Smith scored 15 points and No. 12 Louisville stayed within a game of first place in the Big East by shutting down South Florida in a 59-41 victory Sunday.
Pitino told his junior guard: "'Son, you're unguardable, so rather than be unguardable for yourself, be unguardable to help other guys get easy layups.' And he did a great job of that," Pitino said. "He was very, very active at both ends."
Smith, Wayne Blackshear and Kevin Ware did all the scoring for the Cardinals during a 22-3 run in the first half.
Smith also finished with six rebounds and four assists for Louisville (21-5, 9-4), which has won four of five.
"I just try to do everything (Pitino) says," Smith said. "He's the one driving the car, and I just have to listen and have him guide me to where I want to be as a player."
The Cardinals confused USF with a variety of presses, holding the Bulls to 13 field goals while forcing 16 turnovers.
"I thought this was one of our best games of the year because our focus defensively was awesome, and I thought it was Russ' best game," Pitino said. "He probably doesn't think so. We've been talking about doing smart things as a guard. He did a lot of smart things in helping other guys get great shots."
Blackshear's 3-pointer tied it 11-all with 12:58 left in the first half and launched the decisive rally. Smith scored the final seven points of the spurt, which left the Cardinals with a 30-14 lead.
JaVontae Hawkins' 3-pointer provided USF's only points in a 9-minute span.
"That's a great defensive team, so you've got to give them credit," Hawkins said. "They communicate on defense, they help each other on defense, they talk. When all that comes together, that makes a great defensive team."
The Bulls (10-15, 1-12) got back in the game early in the second half with the help of a spectacular dunk by Victor Rudd and two free throws by Anthony Collins that made it 36-30. But Louisville went back to full-court pressure, producing a 19-3 run that made it 55-33 with 6:12 remaining.
"This was a tougher game than it looked because we have to work on our execution and we have to work on the little things," Smith said. "It doesn't really matter, the level of competition or score. For us it's more execution, being in the right spots and taking care of the little things, finishing games."
Blackshear and Chane Behanan scored 12 points apiece, and 6-foot-11 center Gorgui Dieng had 10 rebounds and five blocks for the Cardinals.
Jawanza Poland scored 11 points for USF, which shot 24.5 percent (13 for 53) and lost its eighth straight. Hawkins and Toarlyn Fitzpatrick had nine points apiece for the Bulls, while Rudd and Kore White each had nine rebounds.
Louisville, which yielded only 79 points in its two victories over USF this season, scored 23 points off turnovers and shot 46 percent (22 for 48).