INDIANAPOLIS — Russ Smith matched his career high with 31 points to lead three Cardinals in double figures, and top-seeded Louisville overcame its toughest test yet in a 77-69 victory over Oregon tonight.
Kevin Ware added 11 and Gorgui Dieng had 10 points and nine rebounds for Louisville, which has won 13 straight. Coach Rick Pitino improved to 11-0 in the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament.
The 12th-seeded Ducks (28-9) managed to make a game of it late. After Louisville went up 66-48 with 9:01 left, Oregon made six straight field goals to close to 70-64 — the closest anyone's been to the Cardinals in a couple of weeks. But Kevin Ware scored on a layup and Chane Behanan threw down a monstrous dunk to put the game out of reach.
Still, Oregon is only the second team to be within single digits at the buzzer during Louisville's run.
Kyle Singler's 15 points led five Ducks in double figures. But Oregon was hurt by foul trouble — Johnathan Loyd had three before halftime — and an off night by Damyean Dotson. The freshman was huge in Oregon's victory over Saint Louis, scoring a career-high 23. But he was 0 for 6 in the first half, and didn't make a field goal until midway through the second. He finished with 12 points on 5-of-14 shooting.
Louisville (32-5) plays the winner of Michigan State-Duke on Sunday.
The Cardinals were barely tested in either of their first two games, beating North Carolina A&T by 31 and Colorado State by 26. They set an NCAA record with 20 steals against A&T, outrebounded one of the country's best rebounding teams in Colorado State and left both teams with ugly shooting lines.
But the Cardinals got a couple of tests tonight, one of their own doing and one very big one from the Ducks.
Peyton Siva spent the last 15:19 of the first half on the bench after picking up his second foul. But even without their floor general, the Cardinals didn't miss a beat thanks to Smith. He hit a 3 to spark a 14-3 run that put Louisville up 24-8, and the game seemed to be all but over.
Smith had seven points during the spurt. When he finished the run with a layup, it was Russ Smith 9, Oregon 8.
The Ducks weren't going away that easily, though. After Luke Hancock's 3 capped a 12-2 run that put Louisville up 66-48, the Ducks would make six straight field goals. When Dotson knocked down a jumper with 5:12 remaining, it got Oregon within six, the closest it had been since early in the first half.
Closest anyone had been to Louisville since the Big East tournament, actually.
But part of what makes the Cardinals so imposing is their maturity — and their options, which seem endless. Ware made a layup and Behanan scored on a thunderous jam and the Cardinals were cruising again.