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.