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Dominant second half punches Louisville’s ticket to Atlanta

Duke v Louisville

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 31: Russ Smith #2 of the Louisville Cardinals drives for a shot attempt in the first half against Rasheed Sulaimon #14 of the Duke Blue Devils during the Midwest Regional Final round of the 2013 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 31, 2013 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

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In the aftermath of the gruesome injury suffered by guard Kevin Ware in the first half, it was anyone’s guess how top overall seed Louisville would perform in the second half of the Midwest regional final against 2-seed Duke.

But after a slow start to the second stanza Rick Pitino’s team played at a very high level, blowing the game wide open with their ability to get to the paint at will and winning by the final score of 85-63.

Russ Smith paced the Cardinals, who are making their second consecutive trip to the Final Four, with 23 points while Peyton Siva added 16 points and Gorgui Dieng 14 and nine rebounds.
MORE: Louisville’s reaction to Ware injury wasn’t a surprise

Louisville shot 1-of-12 from beyond the arc but they haven’t been a particularly good three-point shooting team this season, hitting just 33.1% of their shots entering Sunday’s game.

But the Cardinals made up for it with points in the paint, outscoring the Blue Devils 42-30 and also tallying 14 second-chance points (to just five for Duke).
MORE: Duke runs out of answers in second half

Louisville will take on West Region champion Wichita State on Saturday, and if Rick Pitino’s team can attack the basket as they have since the Big East tournament the Cardinals will be tough to knock off.

Was there a dominant team in college basketball during the regular season? No.

But with the Cardinals playing as they have it’s difficult to argue that Louisville is not the prohibitive favorite to cut down the nets next Monday night.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.