Louisville Cardinals Smith steals the ball from Oregon Ducks Dotson during their Midwest Regional NCAA men's basketball game in Indianapolis

Russ Smith’s 31 points helps Louisville hold off Oregon, advance to the Elite Eight

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The Louisville Cardinals never trailed, jumped out to an early lead, and fought off a pair of Oregon Ducks runs in the second half, as the Cardinals secured another berth in the Elite Eight on Friday night at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis in the Midwest Region with a 77-69 win.

Russ Smith dominated the game with 31 points. He had 16 in the first half to give Louisville at 14-point halftime lead.

But Oregon shot the ball much better in the second half and Dominic Artis cut the lead to single, before Louisville went on a 10-0 run pushing the lead to 66-48 as it looked like the Cards were ready to put this one away.

However, the underseeded Ducks came out of the timeout, and went on a 16-4 run to get back in the game. Damyean Dotson got the lead to as close as six, 70-64, for the first time since early in the first half. Louisville once again countered with six straight points, forcing the lead back up to double digits. That quick spurt was highlighted by Smith’s drive, and instead of going up dished to Chane Behanan for the slam.

The Cards got a great jump out of the starting blocks, treating the first half like a track meet. Despite having Peyton Siva hit the pine five minutes in due to foul problems, Louisville got out in transiton, controlled the tempo and led by 16 midway through the first 20 minutes. In a five minute stretch, Oregon went without a field goal as Louisville upped the lead.

Louisville needed a little bit of a scare after rolling in its first two wins against North Carolina A&T and Colorado State. And that’s exactly what Oregon provided, only a little one. Louisville always seemed to be in control of the game.

This game could have gotten out of hand if it wasn’t for terrific second half shooting by Oregon, early foul trouble that plagued Siva. Louisville didn’t play its best and still won relatively comfortably. The Cards only forced 12 turnovers, credit to Oregon, but the Ducks only had it within two scores one time in the final 35 minutes.

No. 1 seed Louisville play the winner of No. 3 Michigan State/No. 2 Duke in the Midwest Regional final on Sunday.

Terrence is also the lead writer at NEHoopNews.com and can be followed on Twitter: @terrence_payne

Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament chances take a major blow in loss to No. 16 SMU

SMU guard Nic Moore (11) shoots over Gonzaga forward Kyle Wiltjer (33) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
(AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
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Nic Moore scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half and added 11 assists as No. 16 SMU knocked off Gonzaga in Moody Coliseum on Saturday night, 69-60.

The Zags got 20 points and 16 boards from Domantas Sabonis, but Kyle Wiltjer scored just four points and shot 2-for-17 from the floor.

It wasn’t pretty.

And it may have been the end of Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament hopes.

Entering Saturday, the Zags had an RPI in the mid-60s, enough to keep them in the bubble conversation but not enough to make them anything more than a team that will be projected to end up on the cut-line.

The issue is a complete lack of quality wins on their résumé. Gonzaga beat UConn in the Bahamas. That’s a borderline top 50 win. They beat Washington, another borderline top 50 win. Beyond that? They swept Pepperdine, beat Tennessee and own a win over Montana. None of those are top 100 wins, and that’s why the SMU game was such a big deal. The Mustangs are a top 25 team. This was a road game. This win was the kind of thing that the Zags could pin at the top of their profile.

But Wiltjer didn’t show up, the Zags had no answer for Moore and they’ll head back to Spokane needing, in all likelihood, to win the WCC’s automatic bid if they want to dance.

POSTERIZED: Cal’s Jaylen Brown has his dunk contest entry

California's Jaylen Brown lays up a shot against Oregon State in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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Cal picked up a big win over Oregon State in Haas Pavilion on Saturday night, and the exclamation point was this emphatic dunk from Jaylen Brown: