By ASHLEY ANDERSON
For the first time since “the shot” by Duke’s Christian Laettner in 1992, Coach Rick Pitino and Coach Mike Krzyzewski met in the NCAA tournament as No. 1 seed Louisville faced Coach K’s second-seeded Blue Devils on March 31, Easter Sunday, in the Elite Eight at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
This time around, the score was far from close at the final 2.1 seconds of the game, unlike the infamous Kentucky-Duke battle in ’92. After back-up guard Kevin Ware suffered a ghastly leg injury, the Cards were especially determined to win, thrashing Duke 85-63 for a berth in the Final Four, which begins Saturday, April 6, at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. “We were hungry either way, but (we had) that extra hunger to help Kevin get back home because he’s from Atlanta,” said forward Stephan Van Treese.
Once again, junior guard Russ Smith led the Cards in scoring with 23 points, while Gorgui Dieng had 14 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks. Senior guard Peyton Siva also added 16 points and Luke Hancock scored 10 for the Cardinals. “Our offense won the game because it was wearing them out defensively, and it was using the clock,” Pitino said after the game. “And we get a lot of really, really good things from Gorgui, getting Gorgui his jump shot.”
Louisville will take on No. 9 seed Wichita State in the national semifinals on Saturday. If the Cards win, they’ll face either Michigan or Syracuse on Monday night for the national championship. “What a job this coach has done, and these kids they play just like their coach. I mean they play with his personality,” said UofL Director of Athletics Tom Jurich. “Unbelievable. I could not be prouder. It’s great for the city of Louisville and then our fans. I just couldn’t be happier. Can’t wait to get to Atlanta.”
Photos by CHRIS HUMPHREYS | The Voice-Tribune