Wasn’t pretty, but Louisville beats Michigan State to advance

Mar 23, 2012, 2:47 AM | Updated: 9:35 pm

PHOENIX — To say Thursday’s game NCAA West Regional
semifinal between
Michigan State and Louisville was pretty would be
inaccurate.

In fact, it’d be a bold-faced lie.

A game that went into half with the fourth-seeded
Cardinals ahead
of the top-seeded Spartans – having made just one shot
that was
not a three-pointer – was every bit as ugly as the box
score would
indicate.

Yet, it could not have been anymore beautiful for the
first team to
punch its ticket to the Elite 8 at the US Airways Center,
as Louisville
beat Michigan State 57-44.

“Well, our guys prepared really hard this week for this
game,”
Louisville head coach Rick Pitino said. “We talked about
what we
wanted to accomplish with this tournament. We’re proud of
them.”

This is not Pitino’s most talented team. The coach
admitted his
team struggles to score (no kidding), but wow, could they
defend.

The defense also led to 15 turnovers, nine of which came
in the
second half when the Cardinals were able to pull away.
Louisville
turned those turnovers into 20 points.

“You know what our press does a lot of times? It just
wears people
out,” Pitino said. “We didn’t really want to trap them. We
wanted to
run and jump to get to the legs.”

Louisville held Michigan State to 14 of 49 shooting – a
28.6 percent
clip – and forced the Spartans into a pair of dubious
school records:
lowest point total and worst shooting percentage in the
NCAA
Tournament.

Was it a lack of preparation? Michigan State coach Tom
Izzo said
no, and his players backed up that claim. But whatever the
reason,
Michigan State was off, plain and simple.

“Give Louisville an enormous amount of credit,” Michigan
State’s
Austin Thornton said. “They put pressure on us from start
to finish.
They really disrupted what we’re used to doing. It’s hard
to game
plan for how athletic and how quick and how good those
guards
are, and the big guy, he did a great job in the middle,
too.”

The “big guy” Thornton speaks of would be Gorgui Dieng,
who
blocked seven shots – five in the second half – and really
proved to
be the difference Thursday.

“He is a shot blocker. He got those couple at the end and
did a
good job, he really did,” Izzo said

“We knew we were going to come to a war,” Dieng said of
the
mindset going in. “We need to be tougher than them to win
this
game.”

The only thing tougher than Louisville’s defense on
Michigan State
was Louisville’s uniforms on the retina – and because of
the former
the Cardinals are one step closer to the Final Four, which
is a place
Pitino took his Providence team to 25 years ago. That
team, which
featured Florida head coach Billy Donovan, who’s also here
in
Phoeinix, going to Miami this year for a reunion.

“I told my team before the game tonight, here it is 25
years and it’s
still like they’re my best
friends in life,” he siad. “I said, you’re two games away
from having
a 25th reunion yourself. And nobody ever forgets a Final
Four
team.”

Even if the games that got them there are nothing anyone
wants to
remember.

Penguin Air

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Wasn’t pretty, but Louisville beats Michigan State to advance