When Rick Pitino and Tom Izzo meet, the matchup sounds more like an Italian turf war rather than a basketball game. Well on Thursday night, Louisville’s red mob whacked East Lansing’s gang green by a score of 57-44 to advance to the Elite 8. Louisville’s win improved Pitino’s Sweet 16 record to an impressive 10-0 in his career.
The night started out slow for both teams with a combined score of 12 points midway through the first half. The Cardinals started the game 1-for-12 from the field while MSU was 2-for-9. Luckily for Louisville, the three-ball was working in the first half. The Cardinals went 7-of-15 from behind the arc in the first half including one from 6’11 center Gorgui Dieng and forward Jared Swopshire as time was expiring in the half to put the Cards up 23-18. Swopshire was 2-for-3 from three-point land for the night.
One of the biggest determining factors of the night was Dieng’s ability to stay out of foul trouble and anchor the Cardinals’ hybrid 2-3 defense. Dieng shined bright with 7 blocks, 9 rebounds and 3 steals while constantly altering MSU’s shot selection throughout the game. Louisville as a whole caused 15 Spartan turnovers.
“Our two goals were to stop the three and stop the back court,” Pitino told TBS reporters at halftime.
Those two goals were achieved after Louisville held MSU to a combined 23 points from their guards while only converting on 5-of-21 three-point attempts.
Louisville jumped out to a double-digit lead in the second half before the Spartans battled back and cut the score to 35-21 with about ten minutes remaining in the game. MSU’s short burst of momentum was a red herring however as Louisville rattled off a 7-0 run in less than two minutes to put the Cardinals up 42-31. Another 8-0 run by Louisville in the closing minutes sealed the deal for Pitino’s bunch.
Freshmen forward Chane Behanan was the lone Louisville starter to register double-digit points and led the team with 15 while adding 8 rebounds and 3 steals. Russ Smith came off the bench and contributed 11 points while hitting 3-of-4 three-pointers. Junior point guard Peyton Siva only had 4 points but distributed the ball very well and racked up 9 assists.
The win catapults the Cardinals into their first Elite 8 since 2009 when they ironically lost to Michigan St. in the fourth round. Louisville will take on the winner of Florida/Marquette. The Cardinals defeated Marquette 84-71 in the Big East Tournament on March 8. Tipoff for the Elite 8 matchup is set for Saturday night at a time to be determined.
About the Author
Written by John Buffone
John was born in Rural Valley, Pennsylvania. He attended Clarion University and received a degree in Mass Media Arts and Journalism. He currently hosts "The Sports Zone with John Buffone" on AM 1380 WTYM in Kittanning, PA. John is also a sports columnist for the Kittanning Paper and a contributor to Examiner.com, and CatholicSportsJournal.com.