(4) Louisville 57

(29-9, 10-8 Big East)

(1) Michigan State 44

(29-8, 13-5 Big Ten)

    Coverage: TBS

    7:47 PM ET, March 22, 2012

    US Airways Center, Phoenix, Arizona

    1 2 T
    #4LOU 23 3457
    #1MSU 18 2644

    Top Performers

    Louisville: C. Behanan 15 Pts, 9 Reb, 1 Ast, 3 Stl

    Michigan St: D. Green 13 Pts, 16 Reb, 2 Ast, 1 Stl, 2 Blk

    Louisville makes sloppy Michigan State first top seed to fall

    Associated Press

    PHOENIX -- Louisville figured its game against Michigan State to be low-scoring, a natural expectation with two of the nation's best defenses butting heads.

    The Cardinals had one big advantage: Gorgui Dieng.

    Dominating inside, Dieng blocked seven shots and altered several others to anchor a stifling defense that helped Louisville knock off top-seeded Michigan State 57-44 Thursday night in the West Regional semifinals.

    ""He was very disruptive," Michigan State's Draymond Green said. "We're not going to back down from anyone. We took it at him. He pulled off some great blocked shots. That's what he does. That's his strength."

    The Cardinals (29-9) relied on 3-point shooting in the first half and moved inside in the second to befuddle the Spartans.

    Their defense gave Michigan State fits all night.

    Instead of trapping like it normally does, Louisville played a bait-and-switch game with the Spartans and Green, their multitalented forward. The idea was to jump out on screens and to make the Spartans work on every possession and, hopefully, wear them out.

    It worked, in large part because Dieng was in the back to clean things up.

    Tent-pole thin when he arrived at Louisville, the Senegalese center worked hard on his body and his game, developing into the one player the Cardinals had to have on the floor during his sophomore season. When he got in foul trouble, Louisville labored, so one of the key parts of coach Rick Pitino's game plan was to make sure the Cardinals protected him.

    They did and he protected the rim in return, getting five of his blocked shots in the second half to prevent Michigan State from mounting any kind of rally. The Cardinals move on to the West final against Florida on Saturday.

    "When we came here, we know (what) we're going to face," said Dieng, who also had five points, nine rebounds and three steals while matching the school record for blocked shots in an NCAA tournament game. "We knew we were going to come to a war. We need to be tougher than them to win this game."

    Michigan State (29-8) started slow and never got going against Louisville's amoebic defense.

    The Spartans got shots they wanted and usually make but couldn't get many to fall against Dieng or anyone else, shooting 28 percent while being outscored 20-14 inside by the leaner Cardinals.

    Green had 13 points and 16 rebounds in his final game for Michigan State. Brandon Wood added 14 points for the Spartans, who were outscored 17-4 off the bench.

    "They disrupted us a little bit and we didn't have enough guys who could play well," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said.

    This sweet matchup of top programs featured two of college basketball's best short-preparation coaches.

    Pitino has used his speed-the-opponent-up system to reach the Final Four five times, becoming the first coach to lead three different schools to the national semifinals. Once past the NCAA tournament's first week, he's had a knack for guiding his team further along the bracket, going 10-0 in the regional semifinals.

    Izzo has spent his 17 years at Michigan State building teams that can handle the rigors of the Big Ten or switch to greyhound mode when the opponent plays fast. He's been as consistent as any coach in the game, leading the Spartans to the Final Four six times, including the 2000 national title, and 10 trips to the regionals round the past 15 years.

    Izzo played the right hand the last time these two basketball brains met, taking the Spartans to the 2009 Final Four after they found a way to break Louisville's pressure.

    Pitino had something up his sleeve this time.

    With Michigan State bogging the game down, the Cardinals struggled early, missing 12 of their first 13 shots. They snapped out of it by hitting 3s.

    Russ Smith hit a pair, Jared Swopshire and Chris Smith each dropped one in and, even Dieng -- 0 for 2 in his career previously -- got one to go in.

    Swopshire closed it out with a 3 from the corner to put the Cardinals up 23-18 at halftime. Louisville was 7 of 15 from the arc in the half, but got almost nothing inside, hitting 1 of 15 shots from two-point range.

    "Our game plan was to cut off the paint," Izzo said. "I thought we did actually a very good job of that. And yet they hit some 3s."

    Louisville shifted gears to open the second half, getting two layups and a dunk to keep its cushion. Swopshire followed with an alley-oop to Siva for the point guard's first points, then stole the inbound pass to set up two free throws by Russ Smith that put the Cardinals up 35-25.

    Michigan State managed a short run to get within four, but Louisville used its pressure to get a couple of steals and baskets to go up 43-32. Dieng followed with a couple more swats -- one on Keith Appling that sailed into the stands -- to keep the Spartans at arm's length.

    "He played an exceptional game," Pitino said.

    Good enough to get Louisville into the regional final for the third time in six years, a trip to New Orleans and the Final Four within its sights.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 57 44
    FG Made-Attempted 21-55 (.382) 14-49 (.286)
    3P Made-Attempted 9-23 (.391) 5-21 (.238)
    FT Made-Attempted 6-11 (.545) 11-12 (.917)
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 11 (0/0) 15 (0/0)
    Largest Lead 15 3


    » Mar 22, 2012 LOU 57, @MSU 44Recap

    Research Notes

    Gorgui Dieng had 7 blocks and 3 steals vs Michigan State. He is 4th player to have at least 7 blocks and at least 3 steals in a Men's Basketball Championship game. The others are Maryland's Joe Smith in 1995 vs Texas, Iowa's Acie Earl in 1992 vs Duke, and Navy's David Robinson vs Syracuse in 1986.
    This was the 4th time that a Tom Izzo-coached team had a No. 1 seed (Michigan State in 1999, 2000, 2001). It is the first time that he failed to reach the Final Four in those years. This was the 5th time that a Tom Izzo-coached team had a No. 1 or No. 2 seed (Michigan State in 1999, 2000, 2001, 2009). This is the first time that he lost to a team NOT seeded 1 or 2 in those years.
    NEXT LEVEL: Louisville played zone on 45 of 48 half-court possessions, limiting Michigan State to 22.2 percent shooting, while forcing 11 turnovers. During the 2012 Men's Basketball Championship, the Cardinal had played zone on over 76 percent of their half-court possessions.
    The 14 FG for the Spartans are 2 fewer than their previous low in an NCAA Tournament game. (16 vs Wisconsin in 2000 Final Four).
    There are a lot of similarities between this year's Louisville team and last year's Connecticut team.
    Michigan State's 44 points against Louisville are the fewest for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament in the shot clock era.
    The 44 points by Michigan State are the fewest for a Spartans team in a Men's Basketball Championship game. Previous low was 49 vs Kentucky in 1978. The 28.6 FG pct is also the lowest FG pct for a Spartans team in a Men's Basketball Championship game.
    Gorgui Dieng blocked seven shots against Michigan State. That ties his career high as well as the Louisville record for blocks in a Men's Basketball Championship game. Pervis Ellison blocked seven shots against Illinois in 1989.

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