2:45 PM ET, March 22, 2014
Amway Center, Orlando, Florida
Louisville tops Saint Louis, reaches Sweet 16 for 3rd straight year
ORLANDO, Fla. -- It's not always pretty with Louisville. And sometimes, it's ugly by design.
The defending national champions shrugged off poor shooting, 19 turnovers and a subpar performance by star Russ Smith and still won handily Saturday to get back to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament for the third straight year.
"Everything's not going to be sweet or pretty," Smith said after a 66-51 victory over Saint Louis. "We're just getting the job done."
Luke Hancock scored 21 points and the battled-tested Cardinals (31-5) won with defense.
Saint Louis (27-7) missed all 15 of their 3-point shots and turned the ball over 18 times in losing in the third round for the third consecutive year.
"These guys have had a lot of wins under their belt, a lot of great tournament experiences," said coach Rick Pitino, who huddled with the Cardinals after watching Florida wear down Pittsburgh in Orlando earlier in the day.
"I said, 'Guys, that's the exact game you're going to be in,' " Pitino said. " 'And you're going to have to be the prettiest team in an ugly game because that's the way it's going to be.' ... We grinded out a win, and that's what the NCAA tournament is all about."
The fourth-seeded Cardinals, who are looking for a third straight trip to the Final Four, move on to the Midwest Regional semifinals in Indianapolis against either No. 1 seed Wichita State or Kentucky.
"Obvious, they've got a chance to repeat," Saint Louis coach Jim Crews said of Louisville's chances of winning it all again.
Pitino improved to 50-16 in the NCAA tournament, including a 16-0 mark in the round of 16. The Cardinals are in the regional semifinals for the 20th time, matching Kansas and trailing only North Carolina (25), Kentucky (24) and Duke (23).
Smith struggled shooting the ball for the second straight game, missing his first four attempts and going scoreless until his 3-pointer put the Cardinals up 25-14 in the final minute of the opening half.
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Saint Louis starts five seniors, and their experience and cohesion showed in weathering a slow start and methodically working its way back into the game after falling down by 11. The Billikens began the second half with a 13-2 run, holding Louisville without a field goal for nearly 7 minutes to take a 29-27 lead.
But Smith hit a floater in the lane, then made two free throws to restore order for the Cardinals, who limited Saint Louis to 39.6 percent shooting.
Louisville rebuilt their lead to 13 over the next 9 minutes, with Hancock making two 3-pointers and Smith finishing a 23-8 surge with a driving layup that put his team up 50-37.
Smith finished 3 of 10 from the field and had a team-high seven turnovers. The senior led the Cardinals with seven assists.
"Russ Smith has grown so much as a basketball player, but he still has one thing left, and I tried to explain this to him at halftime," Pitino said, adding that Smith has to learn to recognize how other coaches are game-planning to slow him down.
"All the great ones from Michael Jordan to Kobe (Bryant), they don't try to score 20 points in the first quarter. They get everybody else the ball and they let the game come to me, the other team fatigues and things open up. So his last lesson is to play like he did in the second half. ... He's our Michael, our Kobe."
NCAA Mens Tournament
ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 22: Dwayne Evans #21 of the Saint Louis Billikens goes up to dunk over Stephan Van Treese #44...
Around The NCAA Tournament
Deciding factor: Saint Louis went dry in the second half, going nearly six minutes without a basket midway through.
Player of the game: Luke Hancock. He bailed Louisville out of its first game and paced the Cardinals in the second, scoring a game-high 21 points.
Key stat: The Billikens did not make a 3-pointer. Literally, none. Saint Louis went 0-for-15 from deep.
Team Stat Comparison
|FG Made-Attempted||21-53 (.396)||22-49 (.449)|
|3P Made-Attempted||0-15 (.000)||6-17 (.353)|
|FT Made-Attempted||9-16 (.563)||16-24 (.667)|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||19 (0/0)||18 (0/0)|
|» Mar 22, 2014||@LOU 66, SLU 51||Recap|
Louisville is just the fourth reigning title winner to win a game by 15 points since the tournament expanded in 1985 - each of the previous 3 reached the Final Four.[+]
Largest Margin of Victory vs Top-5 Seed - Defending Champion Since Tournament Expanded in 1985
Saint Louis missed all 15 of its attempts from behind the 3-point line Saturday, the most attempts without a make in Men's Basketball Championship history. In fact, the Billikens only made one shot outside the paint in 20 attempts, the lowest percentage for any team in the last five tournaments.[+]
Lowest FG Pct Outside Paint
Saint Louis' 51 points today were the fewest scored by the Billikens in a game since the 2010-11 season (Jan. 29, 2011 at George Washington).
Louisville scored 25 points off 18 Saint Louis turnovers. The Cardinals are 23-1 this season when they score 20 or more points off turnovers. Their 24 such games are 6 more than any other major conference team.[+]
Louisville shot 57.1% on possessions that followed a Saint Louis turnover. On their 52 other possessions, the Cardinals shot 40.0% and had two more turnovers (16) than field goals (14).
Louisville By How Possession Started
Saint Louis missed 15 3-pointers without a make today against Louisville, the most attempts without a make in NCAA Tournament history.
ESPN Stats & Information