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NCAA TOURNAMENT: MIDWEST REGIONAL

Louisvllle routs Arizona, 103-64

Top-seeded Cardinals start fast and do well sharing the ball in one of their best all-around performances of the season.

March 28, 2009|Shannon Ryan

INDIANAPOLIS — Louisville didn't need to worry about wearing down Arizona.

The Cardinals' defense acted as an immediate Taser against the Wildcats, who were lifeless from the tipoff in aggressive Louisville's 103-64 victory Friday night at Lucas Oil Stadium in a Midwest Regional semifinal game.

Top-seeded Louisville put on its most impressive performance of the NCAA tournament against No. 12-seeded Arizona to advance to Sunday's regional final against second-seeded Michigan State.

The Cardinals recorded the biggest margin of victory in the Sweet 16 since the field expanded to 64 in 1985. Louisville posted its highest total of the season but not its largest margin of victory. That came in a 99-54 rout of DePaul.

Louisville's Jerry Smith was a defensive roadblock and a spark on offense. The point guard led the Cardinals with 16 points, including four for eight on three-point shots. He was impressed by Louisville's 29 assists in 38 baskets.

"It says a lot," Smith said. "Guys had open shots, and we were giving it to guys with more open shots. It just shows how far we've come. This is the best I think we've played all season."

Said Earl Clark, who led Louisville with 19 points: "We played great. We looked for each other. When we pass the ball, we knock down shots."

The Cardinals broke the game open quickly when Arizona went nearly five minutes without scoring and Louisville grabbed a 24-15 lead midway through the first half.

The Cardinals were so effective and grasped the game so firmly in the first half by shooting 53% from the field with 12 assists.

Arizona's success hinged on the play of their big three: Nic Wise, Jordan Hill and Chase Budinger. But only Budinger produced with 22 points.

Wise and Hill failed to make a shot in the second half until Wise made a layup with 11:21 left. They scored 14 points apiece as Arizona's Cinderella run ended.

While Louisville's future seems destined for the Final Four in Detroit, Arizona's is murkier than ever.

The Wildcats will begin a national search to replace interim Coach Russ Pennell. And Wise, Budinger and Hill could all be heading to the NBA early.

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sryan@tribune.com

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