Louisville’s Terrence Jennings dunks as Arizona’s Jordan Hill looks away in the first half. Louisville rolled to a 103-64 win.AP photo
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 tip-off in aggressive Louisville’s 103-64 Sweet 16 victory Friday night at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Top-seeded Louisville put on its most impressive performance in this NCAA tournament against No. 12 seed Arizona to advance to Sunday’s Elite Eight against the winner of the late game between second-seeded Michigan State and No. 3 Kansas.
The Cardinals exploded for the biggest margin of victory in the Sweet 16 since the field expanded to 65 in 2001. Louisville posted its highest total of the season but not its largest victory margin. That came in a 99-54 rout of DePaul.
Louisville’s Jerry Smith was a defensive roadblock and an offensive accelerator. The point guard sparked the Cardinals with 16 points, including 4 of 8 three-pointers. He was impressed with Louisville’s 29 assists on 38 baskets.
“It says a lot,” he 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.”
Earl Clark, who led Louisville with 19 points, said: “We played great. We looked for each other. When we pass the ball, we knock down shots.
“We definitely didn’t want to let them in the game. Coach said, ‘Get out and get it over with.”’
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 — 53 percent shooting with 12 assists — it was almost surprising to see the Wildcats emerge from the locker room again.
Nothing changed when they did.
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 field goal in the second half until Wise made a layup with 11:21 remained. 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.
INDIANAPOLIS — Goran Suton scored 20 points and Michigan State was steady from the foul line, defeating defending NCAA champion Kansas in the Midwest Regional semifinals.
Kalin Lucas added 18 points for the Spartans (29-6).
Michigan State advanced to play Louisville on Sunday for a trip to the Final Four.
Sherron Collins scored 20 points and Cole Aldrich had 17 points and 14 rebounds for Kansas (27-7).