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Louisville beats Notre Dame, punches ticket to title game

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NEW YORK—So the stage is set for Saturday night in prime time.

Louisville used a 19-2 run to pull away in the first half and never looked back, coasting to a 64-50 win over Notre Dame on Friday night at Madison Square Garden.

“We’ve wanted to get to this championship game again,” said Louisville coach Rick Pitino. “We lost it last year in a very close battle, and now we get the opportunity to play for it again, and it’s a great opportunity for the players and all our fans.”

Center Gorgui Dieng, who was limited on Thursday night due to foul trouble, came back strong and well-rested against Notre Dame, tallying 16 points on perfect 8-of-8 shooting and adding six rebounds.

“He’s a great player, and we’re very, very fortunate,” Pitino said, having nothing but positive things to say about the sophomore. “The most important thing he’s learning right now is not making silly fouls, and he’s changing his pace all the time, and that’s making him a much better basketball player.”

Notre Dame appeared to be tired after having to grind out an overtime win against USF on Thursday night. Fatigue may have contributed to their 36% shooting night, which included 3-of-24 outside the paint.

Notre Dame was a No. 7 seed in our latest NCAA tournament projections, and a loss tonight shouldn’t have too drastic an effect.

Rick Pitino’s team has had its shooting struggles this season, but came through against the Irish and shot an impressive 56%, which included a mix of attacking the basket and hitting from the outside.

The Cardinals advance to play Cincinnati, who upset No. 2 Syracuse earlier in the evening to punch its ticket to the title game.

Saturday night’s game will mark the first time in the history of the Big East that the tournament championship game does not feature at least one team from the original Big East. Pitino summed the change up rather bluntly.

“I think Conference USA has come to the Big Apple.”

And we might as well get used to it.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Illinois’ injury woes continue as starting center needs knee surgery

George Niang,Abdel Nader,Mike Thorne, Jr.
AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser
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Illinois suffered another blow in what has already turned out to be a brutal season.

Mike Thorne is expected to miss the rest of the season after tearing his meniscus. He reportedly underwent surgery on Monday to repair the injury.

Thorne, a transfer from Charlotte, was starting at center for the Illini and doing a good job of it as well. He was averaging 13.4 points and 8.4 boards, although Illinois has started off the season 3-4.

The reason for that slow start has mainly been those injuries. Tracy Abrams is already out for the season after tearing his achilles, and the Illini training room looked like a M.A.S.H. unit. Kendrick Nunn just returned two games ago from surgery to repair a torn thumb ligament. LeRon Black is still getting back to speed after offseason knee surgery. Jaylon Tate is back after dislocating a finger. Jalen Coleman-Lands was slowed by a stress fracture.

John Groce entered this season on the hot seat, and dealing with all of these injuries certainly isn’t helping his cause.

NEW PODCAST: Recapping Feast Week

Kris Dunn
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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We talk about a lot of stuff of the podcast today, mainly because a lot of stuff happened since we last spoke with you all.

For starters, we need to discuss the ‘realness’ of Syracuse and Xavier. Are they both truly top 15 teams, or do they just have top 15 resumes? We also dive into Chris Mack’s epic troll-job of Dayton at the Advocare Invitational final.

Other topics we touched on: Whether or not Scott is ever going to apologize to Wayne Selden, Wichita State’s tournament hopes, Texas A&M and whether we’d take Ben Simmons, Kris Dunn or Denzel Valentine today.

As always, you can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes right here. It’s the quickest way to get access on your cell phone or tablet.