Midwest Regional

Louisville birddogs Ducks on defense, advances to Elite Eight

2013-03-29T22:00:00Z Louisville birddogs Ducks on defense, advances to Elite EightCourtney Linehan (219) 933-3367, courtney.linehan@nwi.com nwitimes.com

INDIANAPOLIS | Some of it was Hoosier crimson to be sure, but the crowd at Friday's opening game at the Midwest Regional had a definite red bend.

All those Louisville fans got just what they were looking for, as their Cardinals, the No. 1 seed in this region, made it look easy against the No. 12 seed Ducks in a 77-69 win.

Louisville advanced to Sunday's Elite Eight game here.

It was due in large part to Louisville junior guard Russ Smith, who coach Rick Pitino said infected the team in all the wrong ways. Smith was fighting a cold all week, and by Friday had spread the virus to most of his teammates.

Yet Smith led all players with 31 points, tying his season high.

"I was pretty sick where it affected my conditioning," Smith said after the game. "All week Coach has been telling me, 'fight through it, fight through it.'"

And fight he did. The Cardinals started strong and fast, led so much by Smith that at one point he had 9 points and Oregon had 8.

Louisville led by 16 points after less than nine minutes. At halftime it was 45-31.

Oregon made 40 percent of its first-half shots, while Louisville made 60.7 percent.

"I'm disappointed we didn't come out a little looser, more prepared," Oregon coach Dana Altman said. "We were stuck in the mud those first 10 minutes."

Oregon found its footing as the second half opened, preventing Louisville from building on its lead. The Ducks drew fouls and applied pressure, getting to the line and keeping the score at a manageable 10- or 12-point difference.

It was 54-46 when the Cardinals used a 9-2 run to get their momentum back. Oregon continued to struggle closing the gap, despite dictating a slower pace for most of the remaining minutes.

Even on defense, the Ducks couldn't shake Smith, who said he just kept trying to get to open spots on the court before his defender and in the process repeatedly ended up on the foul line, where he sunk 12 of 14 shots.

"Russ Smith is a talented young man," Altman said. "When he got going, we just didn't have an answer.

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