"He wasn't Russdiculous, he was ridiculous," Pitino said.
But a few weeks later, Pitino has had rave reviews for Smith. The coach said Smith has gone from the guy you never know what is coming next to a steady, solid player in the starting lineup for the Cardinals.
"Russ Smith has made the biggest transition from a player in one week than I have seen in a long time," Pitino said. "He has gone from totally out of control, to totally in control. He did a lot of great things out there tonight. He didn't take bad shots that led to run outs at the other end of transition.
"I am really excited because when you have Russ and Peyton in the back court, you have two lightning quick guards who are both under control at all times."
Smith hit 7 of 13 from the field and finished with 17 points, two assists, two steals and three turnovers in 26 minutes.
Several times Smith had a potential three-point attempt but either drove for a closer shot or passed to an open teammate.
Pitino said he believes "the light came on" recently for Smith.
"I think the way Russ is playing now, he deserves to be a starter," Pitino said. "Two weeks ago, I would have told you he was better coming off the bench. We didn't miss a beat when we took Peyton (Siva) out in terms of doing the right thing as a point guard. I allow him to gamble a little bit on defense because he is so good at it. He knows that he has Gorgui (Dieng) back there for help. I don't think he has to be the sixth man this year. I think he has deserved to start."
Siva said Smith is improving because he listened to Pitino's speech – like Siva did last year – about playing smart and keeping his dribble alive.
"He's really working on it," Siva said. "He's keeping his dribble alive longer and making smarter passes. We have both been working on it a lot.
" He's so unguardable because he's so quick and strong."
Smith averaged 11.5 points a game last season but shot just 35.6 percent from the field and had 90 turnovers and 75 assists.