Louisville collected their eighth straight win by knocking off Villanova 74-55 in the Big East tournament as they set their sights on a possible No. 1 seed on Selection Sunday.
The No. 2 seed Louisville (27-5) forced No. 7 seed Villanova (20-13) into 18 first half turnovers and 25 for the game. UofL shot poorly and led 30-21 at the half.
The second half was all Louisville as they settled in and made field goals. Russ Smith led the way with 28 points. Smith found out this morning his high school coach passed away and dedicated the game to him. Luke Hancock added 12 points and Peyton Siva added 10. The Cardinals ended up shooting 44 percent from the floor, including 10-24 three-point shots.
Defensively, Louisville had a mind boggling 58 deflections according to head coach Rick Pitino. Pitino said it is the most in his 35 years of basketball including the NBA.
On a side note, ESPN’s Jay Bilas spent most of the game scrutinizing the officiating. At one point he said it was “absurd”. Regardless of his opinion, the Cardinals harassed Nova the entire game.
Louisville will play in the semifinals Friday night at 9:00 on ESPN. They will play the winner of the Notre Dame and Marquette game. The other semifinal game will be No. 1 seed Georgetown and No. 5 seed Syracuse.