Rushed Reactions: #1 Louisville 85, #2 Duke 63Posted by WCarey on March 31st, 2013
Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Elite Eight NCAA Tournament game between #1 Louisville and #2 Duke in Indianapolis.
Three Key Takeaways.
- Louisville’s mental toughness was incalculable. With 6:33 remaining in the first half, Louisville reserve guard Kevin Ware ran out to defend a three-point attempt from Duke guard Tyler Thornton and what seemed like a routine play turned into a very gruesome sight at Lucas Oil Stadium. Ware’s leg snapped as he landed and he suffered a broken leg. Ware’s teammates were deeply affected by the horrible scene on the court, as both guard Russ Smith and forward Chane Behanan were in tears. As Ware was taken off on a stretcher, Smith, Behanan, and forwards Gorgui Dieng and Montrezl Harrell were locked in an embrace near midcourt. The Cardinals led 21-20 when Ware went down and it would have been completely understandable if they had been unable to overcome the emotions that came with the injury. However, the Cardinals recovered in very impressive fashion – finishing the first half with a 35-32 lead and then exploding in the second half to outscore the Blue Devils 50-31 during the second 20 minutes of the game. Louisville coach Rick Pitino, his coaching staff, and senior point guard Peyton Siva deserve a great deal of credit for guiding the team through what was undoubtedly a very tough time.
- The Cardinals flat out owned the second half. At the second half’s under-16 media timeout, the game was tied at 42, but from that point forward the game was completely dominated by the Cardinals. After the 42-42 tie, Louisville outscored Duke 43-21. The Cardinals’ defensive effort in the second half was so suffocating that they held a very good offense to just a 32.1% mark from the field over the final 20 minutes of the game. Duke stars Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly, and Mason Plumlee were never really able to make a huge impact and its guards Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon were held to a combined 4-of-21 performance from the field. Siva and Smith took over for Louisville on the offensive end of the court, seemingly getting into the lane at will. After shooting a respectable 46.4% from the field in the first half, the Cardinals were even better from the field in the second half, making 59.3% of their attempts in the second frame. Louisville completely dominated the second half and when it is able to put forth a performance like that, it is an impossible team to beat.
- Louisville is the clear favorite to cut down the nets in Atlanta. When the Cardinals became the overall number one-seed on Selection Sunday, they were viewed as a definite favorite to advance to the Final Four in Atlanta. Two weeks later, Louisville has advanced to Atlanta and is the only one-seed still alive in the field. The Cardinals are set to play nine-seed Wichita State on Saturday in a semi-final where they will have a definite talent advantage even though the Shockers were able to pull off upsets of West Region one-seed Gonzaga and two-seed Ohio State. In the other semifinal, four seeds Michigan and Syracuse will meet for a right to advance to the national title game. While there will be a lot of talent on display next weekend, no team has as much talent and experience as Louisville and this is why it should definitely be viewed as the clear favorite to cut down the nets when all is said and done.
- “They just come at you for the whole game.” – Duke guard Seth Curry, commenting on the challenges of playing against Louisville’s suffocating defensive pressure.
- “It’s the best team we have played. That team is as good as we have seen.” – Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, speaking of just how good of a team Louisville is.
- “Kevin Ware said 12 times, ‘I’ll be fine. Win the game.’” – Louisville coach Rick Pitino, talking about the message Ware gave to his teammates and coaches after suffering such a gruesome injury.
- “We had to gather ourselves. We couldn’t lose this game for Kevin. We just couldn’t.” – Pitino, responding to how he was able to get his team to focus after Ware’s injury.
- “Don’t lose this game for Kevin Ware.” – Louisville guard Russ Smith, summarizing the message Rick Pitino had for his team at halftime.
Player(s) of the Game. Peyton Siva and Russ Smith, Louisville. The two starting guards were sensational all game long. After battling foul trouble in Friday’s victory over Oregon, Siva was able to stay on the court Sunday for 33 minutes and he put forth a great performance, finishing with 16 points, four assists, and zero turnovers. Smith, who was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Midwest Regional, was once again the team’s leading scorer, finishing with 23 points on a very effective 7-of-14 performance from the field. Siva and Smith were also fantastic on the defensive end, as they helped limit Duke guards Curry, Cook, and Sulaimon to a combined 7-of-30 from the field.
Sights and Sounds. This was essentially a home game for Louisville, as it would be fair to estimate that around 80% of the crowd was backing the Cardinals – it truly was a sea of red. The stadium went chillingly silent when Kevin Ware suffered his injury and it remained silent until Ware was taken off on a stretcher. Right before the game was set to resume following the break for the injury, a good portion of the crowd started chanting, “Kevin! Kevin! Kevin!” to help honor their team’s fallen guard. As the final seconds ticked off the clock at the end of the game, Louisville forward Chane Behanan was spotted on the team’s bench wearing Ware’s #5 jersey in what was a touching gesture for his injured teammate and friend.
What’s Next. By winning the Midwest Regional, Louisville advances to the Final Four in Atlanta where it will take on Wichita State, the winner of the West Regional, on Saturday evening. The winner of that contest will then advance to play for the national title next Monday night.