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Louisville Shakes Off Sickness To Oust The Ducks

The Cardinals still haven't been tested.

Score: No. 1 Louisville 77, No. 12 Oregon 69

Star(s):Louisville: Russ Smith 31 Pts, 2 Reb, 3 Ast. Oregon: A. Kazemi 11 Pts, 12 Reb, 2 Ast.

Story: It seemed like the two games Louisville had played thus far in the tournament hadn't greatly tested the seasoned Cardinals, and their third game wouldn't go much differently. 

The atmosphere was like a home game for an NBA team. The court was on half of Lucas Oil Stadium, which was split down the middle by dividers. The crowd was clearly tinted red, with sprinkles of Oregon green. It was the strangest college game set-up that I have ever attended. Here is a picture:

Somewhere between before the game got a set tempo and after some awkward lobs to Chane Behanan, Siva already had two fouls. Ware stepped in for him, and the rest of the half presented no more complications for the Louisville squad. By the first Oregon timeout, the score had already separated itself to a 24-8 gap. 

Russ Smith led both teams in scoring at the half, shooting 50% from the field and ending up with 16 points, because it was a Sweet 16 game and he planned that, probably.

The latter half's score fluctuated a bit more. Oregon hung around at a 10 point deficit for a while, but even just within that, it felt like the Cards were up by much more. Just under the ten minute mark, a crazy 7-0 Louisville run happened before I even had time to put down my pizza to clap. Seriously. In 56 seconds, with pizza sauce smeared all over my violently clapping hands, the Cardinals were suddenly up by 18. 

But then, because nothing can ever go perfectly, the Louisville defense softened up and Oregon made a run. I'm not sure whether it was the three Papa John's personal pizzas that I had consumed or that Oregon comeback run, but my heart was burning with something. Cholesterol and pure nervousness are hard to differentiate sometimes. 

Pitino and his team regained defensive composure, though, and, in the end, the Cardinals held on to knock off Oregon. Next is Duke, who Louisville lost to earlier in the season (without Gorgui Dieng). Revenge, a Coach P v. Coach K match-up, the Easter bunny; godspeed, Sunday.

Some notes:

Before the game, Louisville fans had been told that Oregon turns the ball over, and would even more during this game because of the Cardinals' defense. Cards fans also were told that transition would be a problem this game, too.

Oregon only ended up with 12 turnovers, lower than the team's tourney average, which was one of the lowest forced turnover numbers for Louisville. Regardlessat the half, Louisville had scored 12 points more than Oregon in transition. 

The entire team was apparently sick. 

The man next to me, who was not cheering for anyone/anything in particular except the great game of basketball, leaned over to me and said, "Your defense is straight uncomfortable."

Strange, I find that same defense quite comforting.