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- Houston Cougars
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By Don Wade, The Sports Xchange March 14, 2014 11:18 PM
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Guard Russ Smith scored a career-high 42 points to lead No. 5 Louisville past the Houston Cougars 94-65 in the semifinals of the American Athletic Conference tournament Friday night at FedExForum. The No. 2 seed Cardinals will meet No. 4 seed Connecticut in the finals on Saturday night Louisville (28-5) led by as many as 30 points in the second half and the Cougars never drew closer than 14 points. Smith finished 14-for-22 from the floor, 5-for-7 from 3-point range. Forwards Montrezl Harrell and Luke Hancock each scored 12 points for the Cardinals and forward Stephan Van Treese scored five points with 10 rebounds and three steals. The Cardinals shot 50 percent (34-for-68) from the floor and the Cougars shot 37.3 percent (25-for-67). Louisville finished with 22 assists and just six turnovers while the Cougars made 14 assists with 16 turnovers. Houston (17-16) lost to Louisville for the third time this season. The No. 6 seed Cougars reached the semifinals by upsetting No. 3 seed SMU on Thursday. Forward TaShawn Thomas led Houston with 13 points, eight rebounds, four blocks and three assists and a steal. Houston last tied the score in the first half at 16-16 on a layup by forward J.J. Richardson at the 12:05 mark. Louisville then went on a 20-2 run over the next six minutes to take a 36-18 lead. Three times during the run, Hancock grabbed an offensive rebound off a missed free throw and each time it led to points for Louisville. Twice, Smith hit 3-pointers, and the other time, Hancock was fouled going to the basket and then made two free throws. The Cardinals led by as many as 21 in the first half but Houston closed on a 6-0 run and Louisville led 47-32 at the break. Smith scored 27 first-half points and led Houston by himself for much of the half. He was 8-for-11 from the floor, 4-for-6 from 3-point range and 7-for-8 at the free-throw line. Houston guard Daniel House had 10 first-half points and nine rebounds. NOTES: Louisville reached the semifinals of its conference tournament for the fifth time in six years with its 92-31 thumping of Rutgers in the AAC quarterfinals Thursday. The Cardinals have reached the championship game of its conference tournament in four of the last five years. ... Through 32 games, including Houston's upset of No. 25 SMU in the quarters of the league tournament, Cougars F TaShawn Thomas ranked third in the AAC in rebounding (8.1) and eighth in scoring (15.5). Cougars G L.J. Rose was first in assists (5.5). ... Playing in his hometown of Memphis, Tenn., Louisville G Chris Jones scored a game-high 18 points with four assists and six steals in the victory over Rutgers.