Louisville sped into the NCAA semifinals today with a 30-16 burst that routed second ranked Louisiana State, 86-66, in the Midwest Regional final.
The first half each team carried the momentum for short spells, but in the second Louisville blew by the Tigers to a game Saturday against Iowa in Indianapolis.
Louisville Coach Denny Crum said his club's comeback from a 16-point run by LSU midway in the first half was the key.
"We decided we couldn't allow them to do what they wanted to do; we had to take the tempo back from them," Crum said. "I can't really put my finger on why we win, other than to say that we work hard, play together and love each other. We're not bothered by adversity, I guess.
"We're not better than anyone else and we're smaller than 90 percent of the teams we've played, but we work harder than anyone else and have out-rebounded 90 percent of the teams."
As unlikely as it would have seemed before the game, Louisville won despite all-America Darrell Griffith playing only 18 minutes, though he did score 17 points. Griffith ran into foul trouble early.
"The name of the team is Louisville, not Griffith," said the 6-foot-4 senior guard. "I don't think I was too tight, that wasn't why I was getting the fouls. You don't have to be tight to be collecting fouls."
Crum felt Griffith was "overanxious, and guarding his man too close."
But when reserve guard Roger Burkman filled in admirably with eight points in 26 minutes work, the Cards were able to not only hand on, but win comfortably with Griffith in and out of the lineup.
Foremost on the Louisville offensive attack were Wiley Brown, Derek Smith and Rodney McCray, the front line that accumulated 16, 13 and 12 points. They also had 25 rebounds. Smith and McCray grabbing 10 apiece as Louisville swept the boards by a 42-35 margin.
LSU was kept in the game by senior reserve guard Jordy Hultberg.He scored 17 points, making eight of 10 shots, mostly from far out.
"Jordy kept us in the game for as long as he could," Tiger Coach Dale Brown said. "But Louisville is the best team we've run up against this year. Before the tournament I felt that DePaul, Kentucky and Alcorn State were the teams to beat. Now I feel it's Louisville. They were superior to us and it's possible that they can't be beat now.
"Obviously, it's a tremendous disappointment for us today, but it was our most successful season ever." Brown's team's finished 26-6.
Louisville is the highest seed remaining in the NCAA tourney, although for a while in the first half it looked as if the Cardinals would watch the rest of the tournament at home.
Louisville's 21-13 cushion turned into a 29-21 deficit as LSU ran off 16 unanswered points. Hultberg appeared unable to miss, scoring eight points, and with DeWayne Scales' six the Tigers swept into the lead.
Wiley Brown, collecting rebounds and finding his way clear to the basket, had been chiefly responsible for the Cards' 12-2 lead. He also scored Louisville's first basket in six minutes when he ended LSU's 16-point burst with 4:10 to play in the half.
Then it was LSU's turn to go sour, as Louisville ran off the last 10 points of the half for a 31-29 advantage. The Cardinals did not look back, scoring 24 of the first 38 points of the second half. Griffith had 11 of those points, his three-point play with 11 minutes to go putting the Cards up, 55-43.
After LSU scored a basket, Louisville ran off six more points in rapid order, stretching the lead to 61-45. With LSU in foul trouble, Louisville spent most of the game's final minutes camped at the free throw line.
"Brown carried us in the first half, no question about it," said Crum, whose team is 31-3.