Cards win it for Ware to return to the Final Four, dousing Duke 85-63

03/31/2013 06:36 PM

The Cardinals befuddled Duke in the second half of Sunday’s Midwest Regional semifinals with smothering defense, and both of UofL’s starting guards turned in huge games to send Coach Rick Pitino to his seventh Final Four.

They used a 26-8 run starting at the 16:00 mark of the second half to put away the Blue Devils, 85-63. Guards Russ Smith and Petyon Siva outshined Duke’s vaunted guards with Smith leading all scorers with 23 points and Siva adding 16 points and four assists.

The Cards move on from Indianapolis to Atlanta to face the Final Four’s Cinderella, Wichita State, which won the West Regional Saturday night by outlasting Ohio State. The national semifinals are scheduled for April 6.

UofL bounced back from a gruesome injury to sophomore super sub Kevin Ware, who broke his right leg trying to block a shot with a little more than 6:30 to go in the first half.

“We won this for him,” Pitino told CBS after the game. He said it will take a year for Ware to come back from it after he broke the bone in two places. “The bone is 6 inches into his skin and all he’s yelling is ‘Win the game.’”

Play stopped for about nine minutes as the medical team took Ware off the court on a stretcher. The crowd roared in appreciation – and sympathy – for Ware, who was having another solid effort after his huge game Friday night against the University of Oregon.

Both teams got back into rhythm and traded baskets – and leads – until just before halftime. After Wayne Blackshear hit two free-throws to put UofL up by a point, Smith picked up the ball off a UofL block, drove to the hoop to put the Cards up three.

UofL took that 35-32 lead into the half. It was the 29th time out of 29 games that UofL put away a game when leading at the half.

Perhaps what was most impressive, they held Duke superstar Seth Curry scoreless on just two shots.

That didn’t last as Curry came out of the half and hit two three pointers. He finished with 12 points.

The teams battled back and forth to open the second half before Smith energized U of L by picking off a lobbed pass, driving to the basket and somehow hitting a floater between three Duke defenders including the outstretched arm of Mason Plumlee. And for good measure, he drew the foul and turned it into a three-point play.

That fueled a 7-0 run to put the Cardinals up 49-42 with Smith and Siva trading drives to the hoop.

Duke finally stopped the bleeding with as Quinn Cook drew a foul as he slashed to the basket. He hit both free throws to put Duke within five.

But Siva took over the game after that with an assist to Gorgui Dieng, then another layup in traffic. Dieng hit two mid-range jumpers on consecutive possessions to extend U of L’s lead to 13, 57-44, with just under 11 minutes to go. Dieng finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds.

Duke failed to score in an 8:11 stretch, allowing the Cards to go up 62-48.

By that point, the game was too far out of reach. Duke’s Tyler Thornton fouled out with 2:37 to go after bumping Luke Hancock in the middle of shooting a three-pointer About a minute later, Rasheed Sulaimon followed Thornton to the bench after fouling out.

UofL forced 10 Duke turnovers in the first half but only one in the second half. Instead of stealing the ball, the Cards’ defense just locked down the Blue Devils. Duke shot just 36.5 percent for the game after shooting 43.5 percent in the first half.

The Cards shot 53.7 percent from the floor, which included just two of 13 from three-point range. In fact, Hancock hit the first UofL three-pointer halfway through the second half to break an 0-for-9 streak from behind the arc.

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