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New No. 1  Handles Huskies

Hartford, Conn. — Russ Smith scored 23 points and Gorgui Dieng had six points and 16 rebounds and Louisville, playing just hours after it moved to No. 1, used a strong second half to beat Connecticut 73-58 last 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.

The only other time Louisville was ranked No. 1 in The Associated Press’ Top 25 was the final poll of 2008-09. The Cardinals won the national championship in 1980 and 1986 but the AP does not conduct a post-NCAA tournament poll.

The Cardinals are the third team to hold the No. 1 spot this season along with Indiana and Duke and they celebrated the move with the convincing road win.

Louisville shot 60.7 percent in the second half (17 of 28) and hit an even 50 percent for the game.

Omar Calhoun led the Huskies (12-4, 2-2) with 20 points while Shabazz Napier added 12, all but two in the first half. Ryan Boatright had 11 points and he and Napier both had six assists for the Huskies, who were coming off a win over then-No. 17 Notre Dame that was their sixth in seven games.

Abuse Charge Dropped
Against Iowa State’s Palo

Ames, Iowa — Prosecutors yesterday announced they had dropped a sexual abuse charge against Iowa State basketball player Bubu Palo, paving the way for him to rejoin the Cyclones.

Palo was suspended from the team in September after being charged with sexually abusing a woman he was driving home in May. But the Story County Attorney’s Office said yesterday that new forensic evidence on a blouse belonging to the woman clashed with her sworn testimony as well as sworn testimony from her mother.

“It’s always been taught, innocent until proven guilty. And I felt like I didn’t really have a chance to defend myself from people who would make these judgments against me.

“I would say that hurt the most. Especially since my whole life I’d been raised to do the right thing,” Palo said during a news conference last night at his attorney’s office. “I would never make a mistake to this level.”

The woman had told police that the blouse had been torn during the alleged assault. She handed it over to police on the weekend of Dec. 1, after believing it had been lost, and said she had washed it about 10 days after the night of the alleged assault, said Palo’s attorney, Matthew Boles.

But a forensics expert found that the blouse was torn after it was washed, Boles said.

Another man, Spencer Cruise, of Ames, was also cleared of sexual abuse in the case.

Boles said the discrepancy with the blouse was the “crowning piece of several inconsistencies” with the woman’s story.

“A dismissal is as close as vindication as you can get in a situation such as this,” Boles said, adding that the blouse evidence “really solidified that the story wasn’t making sense.”

Iowa State released a statement later Monday saying Palo, a junior and a backup point guard, had been cleared to resume basketball-related activities with the Cyclones

Palo said he visited with coach Fred Hoiberg during practice following the announcement that the charges were dropped and that the pair shared a brief embrace.

Palo, 21, is a native of Ames who joined the Cyclones as a walk-on before earning a scholarship last season.

Palo emerged as a valued reserve at point guard, averaging 4.0 points and 1.5 assists in 2011-12. He was also a first-team Academic All-Big 12 selection last season.

Though he’s immediately eligible to practice, Palo might have a tough time getting into good enough shape to contribute the Cyclones this season.

Still, Palo said “the biggest weight” had been lifted off his shoulders when he found out the charges had been dropped.

“To be able to go out in public and just be able to just breathe finally, and know that people aren’t necessarily staring at me or whispering behind my back anymore ... (it’s) mostly relief,” Palo said.