Villanova had the advantage on the boards, grabbing 20 rebounds to Louisville’s 13 and they outscored the Ville by 10 in the paint so the locker room adjustment had to be to get tougher inside.
Coming out of the break, the game reopened on a Cardinal three. Louisville wanted to keep outside pressure on to try to open the lane for Gorgui Dieng. He took advantage by using his spin moves when he started knocking down his short jumper.
Meanwhile, Smith made the Wildcats pay. Not known as a prolific three point threat, he nailed his opportunities in the second half to help his final total of 28 points. Hancock did the same from long range as well as dribble-drives inside, which wasn't a skill he showed too much in the regular season. And they did it while Villanova took their defense to hockey levels.
ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said "you have to get tasered to get a foul in this game" after a replay showed Smith hitting a three while being fouled, then knocked down and finally stepped on. And still Louisville stretched the lead to 16 by that point.
In the end, the Louisville defense and athleticism wore down Villanova, just like they have to their Big East rivals all season. Nova will make the big dance, but it's the Cards that go on to play Notre Dame in the semi-final as they take away the win 74-55. Friday night's game could be wilder, given the history between the Cardinals and the Fighting Irish.
Photo: Louisville.com/Tim Girton
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