NCAA Basketball Tournament - Louisville v Florida

Teacher beats the student as Louisville heads to Final Four


The teacher beats the student.

Russ Smith came off the bench to score 19 points as No. 4 Louisville used a 18-3 run to close the game and knock off No. 7 Florida 72-68 to advance to the Final Four. If that wasn’t bad enough for Billy Donovan, a win would have been his first against his mentor Rick Pitino.

Making Louisville’s late-run all-the-more impressive is that the Cardinals were able to do it despite the fact that their star guard — and the kid that has carried Louisville to this point in the tournament — had fouled out with 3:58 left and Louisville down by a point.

Florida looked to be in complete control of this game. They took an eight point lead into the half on the strength of 8-of-11 shooting from beyond the arc and pushed that lead to as much as 11 midway through the second half. But with just under 11 minutes left in the second half, Rick Pitino was called for a technical foul after Peyton Siva picked up a questionable fourth foul. Erving Walker hit four free throws to take an 11 point lead, but the Gators never seemed to get into an offensive rhythm the rest of the game.

Where this game changed was on the defensive end of the floor. Florida was torching Louisville’s zone; their ability to use the dribble to get into gaps and find shooters is how the Gators built their lead. In the second half, the Cardinals went man-to-man. Once Florida started attacking Gorgui Dieng in the pick-and-roll, Rick Pitino switched the defense again, keeping Dieng in the paint and using Behanan as the pick-and-roll defender.

The move completely changed the course of the game. Not only were the Gators 0-for-9 from three in the second half, but Florida managed just three points in the final eight minutes of the game and didn’t score again after Kenny Boynton’s jumper put them up 68-66 with 2:43 remaining. In Florida’s final 14 possessions, they were 1-of-12 from the floor, 1-for-3 from the line and committed two turnovers. That ain’t good.

Chane Behanan came up huge for the Cardinals, finishing with 17 points and seven boards. He also provided arguably the two biggest baskets of the game, tying the game at 66 with 3:32 left in the game and giving Louisville the lead with 1:12 remaining.

Louisville will advance to take on the winner of tomorrow’s Kentucky-Baylor South Region final.

If the Wildcats advance, the state of Kentucky may cause our nation’s second Civil War.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

VIDEO: Kris Dunn wills Providence to win over No. 11 Arizona

Kris Dunn, Elliott Pitts
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Kris Dunn spent the first 35 minutes of Friday night’s game against No. 11 Arizona in foul trouble, splitting his time between sitting on the bench and trying to avoid finding himself, again, on the wrong side the whistle.

With 11 minutes left in the game, and with Dunn yet to find a rhythm, the all-american point guard was whistled for his fourth foul as he battled for a rebound with Arizona’s Mark Tollefsen. Head coach Ed Cooley say his superstar beside his for six game minutes, time enough for Arizona to turn a 49-47 deficit into a 58-54 lead.

There were just over five minutes left when Dunn reentered the second semifinal of the Wooden Legacy, and he proceeded to show everyone in the country why he was named the Preseason Player of the Year. Providence had nine possessions after he reentered the game. Dunn scored 11 points and had a pair of assists on those eight possessions, and if Ben Bentil had stuck a wide-open three — that was setup by Dunn — the Friars would have scored on all nine.

In total, Dunn was responsible for all 15 Friar points in a game-changing, 15-7 run in the final 4:30. It was capped off by this Kobe-in-his-prime-esque game-winner:

The win for Providence is huge for a couple of reasons:

  • Dunn showed a killer instinct against a marquee opponent, something that we didn’t necessarily see out of him a season ago. He wasn’t going to let his team lose, and given that Providence doesn’t have anyone else that can consistently create good shots, they are going to need that from him a lot this year.
  • It makes a statement for the Friars. Arizona is overrated at No. 11 in the country, yes, but going out on national television against an elite program and getting this kind of performance from Dunn is a confidence-booster and a tone-setter. Providence hasn’t been accustomed to winning in recent years. This is a way to set a trend.
  • Ben Bentil continues to play like a star. Dunn had 19 points and eight assists on Friday, but Bentil followed up a 24-point performance in the win over Evansville with 21 critical points on Friday.

This win sets up a matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence on Sunday night, which means that Denzel Valentine and Kris Dunn — the two best players in the country, sorry Ben Simmons — will be going head-to-head.

Oh. Hell. Yes.

No. 14 Cal goes 0-2 in Las Vegas Invitational

Jaylen Brown
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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After midnight on the east coast on Thanksgiving, No. 14 Cal blew a 15 point second half lead against San Diego State, allowing the Aztecs to use a 30-6 run to put away the game and advance to the final of the Las Vegas Invitational. That’s the same San Diego State team had scored 43 points in a loss to Arkansas-Little Rock last week.

Not 24 hours later, the Golden Bears were shredded defensively by the Richmond Spiders, losing 94-90 in the consolation game of a four-team tournament they were considered to be the heavy favorite in.

It’s a disappointing two-game stretch for Cal, who entered the season as a Pac-12 favorite and had looked the part for the first four games of the season.

And the issue appears to be on the defensive end of the floor.

Richmond is a good Atlantic 10 team. Terry Allen and Marshall Wood are high-major big men, Shawn’Dre Jones is a jitterbug at the point and Chris Mooney runs a Princeton-esque system that is very difficult to prepare for without a day in-between games. So it’s not really surprising that the Spiders gave Cal a fight.

But 94 points?

On the heels of giving up 44 points in the second half against the offensively-challenged Aztecs?

That’s a problem, one that I’m sure that Cuonzo Martin is going to address this week in practice. Martin has managed to put together a roster that is build for small-ball, with four talented perimeter players surrounding a first round pick in the post. But that’s not the style that he’s known for. Martin played his college ball at Purdue in the Gene Keady days. He cut his teeth as a head coach at Missouri State in the Missouri Valley. His team’s at Tennessee were known for being tough and physical defensively.

That’s how Martin coaches, which is part of the reason Cal had such hype entering the year.

The talents of Tyrone Wallace, Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb, Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews on a team with a coach that gets teams to defend the way Martin does? It’s no surprise that pundits would be optimistic.

But as of now, they have some work to do defensively if they want to live up to that hype.