LEXINGTON, Ky. - Bumping, banging and leaving Colorado State with a whole lot of bruises, top-seeded Louisville is into the Midwest Region semifinals.
Russ Smith led four players in double figures with 27 points, and the Cardinals put on a defensive clinic as they dismantled Colorado State 82-56 on Saturday. The Cardinals put on a defensive clinic as they dismantled Colorado State 82-56 on Saturday. Louisville forced the eighth-seeded Rams into a season-high 20 turnovers, made Colton Iverson look as invisible as a 6-foot-10 guy can be and limited one of the nation's best rebounding teams to 24 boards, more than a dozen below their average of 40.
The Rams had come in with the country's best rebounding margin, plus-12. But the Cardinals outrebounded them 29-24. Two nights after scoring 26 against Missouri, Dorian Green was held to six points. Iverson had seven rebounds, the first time in three games he'd failed to reach double figures.
It was the 12th straight win for Louisville (31-5), which will play the winner of Saint Louis-Oregon on Friday in Indianapolis.
Playing Louisville and its relentless press is about as much fun as facing a really angry octopus. The Cardinals look as if they have eight or nine players on the floor, what with all the arms waving and bodies smothering whoever has the bad luck to have the ball, and when one guy sits down, there's one equally as physical right there to take his place.
Few teams have had much success against Louisville - there's a reason the Cardinals are the overall No. 1 seed - but Colorado State seemed as if it might have a shot. The Rams run a motion offense that's tough to defend, grab rebounds by the dozens, and are a savvy, veteran team that doesn't turn the ball over. In fact, when Louisville coach Rick Pitino made out his "dangerous" list before the tournament began, Colorado State was on it.
So much for that.
Colorado State actually shot the ball well - 47.5 percent. The Cardinals just wouldn't let them do it very often, limiting the Rams to 18 shots in the first half and 40 total.
They hounded Colorado State when it was inbounding the ball; the Rams had back-to-back possessions in the first half when they couldn't even get the ball in play. They circled Colorado State when the Rams brought it up, with more than one turnover coming on a desperation heave across midcourt to beat the whistle. And, of course, they clogged up every inch of the court where the Rams might have a view of their basket, repeatedly slapping the ball away or stepping in front of passes.
The Rams reached their season average in turnovers (10.9) by halftime, and topped their previous worst for the season (16) with 15:33 still to play.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals were scoring at will.
Jon Octeus made a pair of free throws to pull the Rams within 26-22 with 6:10 left in the first half. But then the Cardinals went on a 17-6, effectively putting the game out of reach.
Peyton Siva made a jumper, and Ware followed by stripping Octeus and taking the ball in for the easy layup to start the surge. Five different Cardinals scored during the run, which was capped by a 3 by Smith.
The Cardinals were so on that Harrell's jumper at the buzzer bounced on the rim once, twice and then a third time before swirling in to give Louisville a 45-31 lead at the half. Colorado State coach Larry Eustachy threw up his hands as if to say, "Sure. What else?"
The Rams were No. 4 in the country in rebounding (40.4), and their plus-12 margin was the nation's best. They didn't come anywhere close to that.