Top-overall-seed Louisville continued its run towards a national title by securing a spot in the Elite Eight with a dominant 77-69 win over No. 12 Oregon.
Russ Smith led the the way for the Cardinals on offense, and Gorgui Dieng took care of the defense. Smith finished with a game-high 31 points, while Dieng dominated down low with nine rebounds, two steals and four blocks.
The Ducks proved conclusively in their first two games that they were under-seeded, but the Cardinals showed immediately from the start of this contest that the selection committee was right to choose them as the best team in the 2013 NCAA tournament.
Despite senior point guard Peyton Siva's absence for much of the first half due to foul trouble, Louisville dominated the opening 20 minutes. Rick Pitino's team was up by as many as 16 points and ultimately took a 14-point lead into the locker room.
The lead ebbed and flowed throughout the second half, as Oregon refused to go down in a blowout. E.J. Singler led the Ducks in scoring with 15 points, while fellow senior Arsalan Kazemi chipped in 11 points and 12 rebounds.
The Ducks closed the deficit to as little as six points, but every time Oregon made a run, Louisville responded in a big way.
The Cardinals controlled this game from start to finish, with the exception of a few brief periods, and Pitino's team looks invincible heading into the Elite Eight.
Pac-12 Digital's Bryan Fischer noticed right at the beginning of this game that Oregon did not look like it was up for the challenge of playing the best team in the country:
Oregon looking all kinds of flustered at both ends of the court.— Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer) March 29, 2013
There was a brief moment of hope in the first half for Oregon, and Yahoo! Sports' Pat Forde was quick to point it out. However, he later noted that it wasn't long before Louisville's dominance returned:
Nice regroup by Oregon. Settling down in halfcourt now and back within eight.— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) March 29, 2013
After nice Oregon rally, Louisville lands some late body blows and takes 14-point lead into half. And Peyton Siva played less than five mins— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) March 30, 2013
The Cardinals were the popular pick to win the national title this year, and Forde's colleague, Brad Evans, notes that they demonstrated exactly why in this game:
Folks, this is why every pundit and their momma was on Louisville. Oregon playing hard, but simply can't match blow-for-blow. Cards ballin'.— Brad Evans (@YahooNoise) March 30, 2013
Louisville shot over 60 percent from the floor in the first half. Want to know how? ESPN Stats & Info has your answer:
15 of Louisville's 17 first-half baskets were in the paint in the 1st half. Its shot chart yfrog.com/9htf5hj— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 30, 2013
This was a statement game for the Cardinals and their star scorer Russ Smith. ESPN's Mike Greenberg gave credit where credit was due:
Pitino raved about Russ Smith on our show this week.He's showing you why tonight.Sensational. #Louisville— Mike Greenberg (@Espngreeny) March 30, 2013
Just past the halfway mark in the second half, Louisville shifted into another gear and pushed the lead to 18 points. This caused CBS Sports' Doug Gottlieb to call this game early:
Oregon is done #CBS - bad shots on o, layups on D— Doug Gottlieb (@GottliebShow) March 30, 2013
The Ducks nearly made Gottlieb's last tweet look foolish when they mounted a late comeback. He then opted to quote a classic Disney movie as Oregon inched towards a storybook finish:
But Louisville absorbed the punches and held on for the victory. SportsCenter took note of Pitino's still-flawless record in the Sweet 16:
IN THE CARDS! Louisville moves on to Elite 8 with 77-69 win over Oregon. Rick Pitino is now 11-0 in Sweet 16 games.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 30, 2013
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