By the time the University of Louisville basketball Cardinals hit the court at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana, another number one seed had gone down to defeat. The night before Indiana lost in their regional semi-final so the Oregon Ducks had upset on their mind when they played the Cards in their Sweet 16 game. Louisville didn’t trail the entire game and punched their Elite Eight ticket 77-69
Both teams opened the game with tenacious full court presses. Louisville took the early lead, but senior point guard Peyton Siva took the early lead in fouls. He committed two in the first 4 minutes and had to plant himself next to coach Rick Pitino for the remainder of the first half.
Siva’s second came on one of those inconsistently called block/charge fouls. On replay, the defender clearly had his feet still moving but that call has gone for and against the Cardinals all season. In fact, 4 minutes later, Stephan Van Treese received a charge.
Oregon’s bench came in deeper than most of Louisville’s opponents so athleticism and execution would be more important than most games. The Ducks had to deal with the Cardinal subs, like Kevin Ware who has come on in the latter games of the season. Ware took the point and played with passion.
Junior Luke Hancock had trouble finding the range from the three point arc, but he was so committed to the possession that he followed one miss with a rebound and a score. Another miss had him taking a pass and going to the rim again. The Ducks forgot that even though Hancock is a spot up long range bomber, he’s also a forward with some size to go inside.
Shooting guard Russ Smith continued his performance he had last weekend in Lexington’s Russ Arena (not a typo). His relentless defense and instant offense kept Oregon guessing. Nearly every time he got into the lane, he finished with a score or drew a foul. Smith’s first half was huge, scoring 16 points. That kind of play led to a halftime lead, 45-31.
Photo: Louisville.com/Tim Girton
Siva opened the second half on the court and took a charge. The irony was that Siva wasn’t in position so it makes casual fans wonder if there is such a thing as make up calls.
The Ducks made clear their game plan. After a Louisville score, run the floor as quickly as possible to keep the Cards out of the press. They did that, but had trouble finishing because of the quickness from the Cardinals. Even when they got out in front on the break, Louisville closed so quickly that no shot went unchallenged.
CBS Sports announcers were so impressed with Smith’s play that they tried to re-coin his nickname as a silly sounding “Russtacular.” Too bad the nation has already bought into the similarly silly sounding “Russdiculous.”
Oregon went on a 13-5 run to cut the lead to 8 about 8 minutes into the second half. The Ducks did that on a few moments of sloppy defensive play that lead to cheap fouls by the Cards. Then Siva and Hancock both rained threes and Louisville was off to the races again.
The Ducks put another run together but for every set of baskets they could string together, the Cards had an answer. E.J. Singler and Dominic Artis kept Oregon in the game but on the other end, they couldn’t stop Smith who finished with 31 points.
In the end coach Pitino’s Sweet 16 unbeaten streak remains alive and the Cards get ready to play the winner of the Michigan State-Duke game on Sunday in the Elite Eight back in Indy.
Photo: Louisville.com/Tim Girton