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Louisville knocks Duke basketball out of NCAA Tournament 85-63 in the Elite Eight

INDIANAPOLIS—After a nail-bitter of a first half, the NCAA Tournament’s No. 1 overall seed went on a huge second-half run to advance to the Final Four.

Led by the big three of Russ Smith, Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng, the Cardinals (33-5) blew out Duke (30-6) 85-63 at Lucas Oil Stadium to punch their ticket to Atlanta. Louisville went into halftime up 35-32, and the game was tied at 42 with 16:20 left. But the Blue Devils went the next 8:15 without a field goal, a span during which the Cardinals opened up a 16-point lead.

The story of the first half was not a rematch of the Battle 4 Atlantis championship game, which Duke won 76-71, nor was it about two of the game’s best coaches meeting in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since Christian Laettner’s “The Shot” in 1992. Instead, it was the injury to Louisville sophomore guard Kevin Ware.

With the Cardinals leading Duke 21-17 and 6:33 on the clock, Ware was defending a Tyler Thornton 3-point attempt near the Louisville bench. When Ware landed on his right leg he suffered a horrific injury, later classified as a compound fracture. The bone was very clearly protruding from Ware’s skin.

As Ware was placed on a stretcher and rushed to IU Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, his teammates were in shock over the injury. Smith broke down in tears. Siva and sophomores Wayne Blackshear and Chane Behanan dropped to the floor and hid their faces. Member of both teams were clearly shaken by the incident.

After a nine-minute delay, action resumed and the game remained close. When the buzzer sounded to end the first half, Louisville was clinging to a fragile three-point lead. The Cardinals’ pressure defense gave the Blue Devils fits, as Duke committed 10 first-half turnovers—four alone charged to Mason Plumlee. Behanan, Smith and Dieng all had two steals in the first half.

Not much went right in the first half for Duke, yet the team managed to scrap and stay in the game. Senior forward Ryan Kelly’s hot start was mitigated by foul trouble. Kelly had seven points on 3-of-3 shooting—including a 3-pointer—before being relegated to the bench with two fouls. Just six seconds after returning to the game he was whistled for his third foul and was forced to sit once again. Kelly ended up playing just eight minutes in the half.

While Kelly was stuck on the bench, other Blue Devils were doing nothing to make up for his absence. Rasheed Sulaimon was averaging 14.7 points per game during the NCAA Tournament, but the freshman guard misfired on all five of his field goal attempts in the half. He finished the night with just three points on 1-of-10 shooting.

With Sulaimon being recognized for the wrong reasons, Seth Curry was barely visible on the court at all. Unlike Kelly, Curry played all 20 minutes of the first half, but had nothing to show for it. Curry went scoreless, missing all three of his field goal attempts, and didn’t record a single assist or rebound.

After the intermission Curry was not going to be kept at bay any longer. He opened up the half by making his first two 3-point attempts and added two more free throws to give him eight points in a two-minute span, helping draw Duke even with the Cardinals. He ended the game with 10 points and one rebound.

Then Peyton Siva took over.

Siva continued to harass the Duke guards defensively while creating with ease on the offensive end. Coming into the day Siva had been shooting a meager 31.6 percent from the field for the NCAA Tournament, but in the second half he hit his first three shots and added two more from the free throw line. His recent turnover woes also vanished, as he didn’t lose possession of the ball once the entire game.

Siva wasn’t the only Cardinal responsible for the win—it was a complete team effort. After Mason Plumlee’s dunk with 16:18 remaining in the game that knotted the score at 42, Louisville rattled off a 24-6 run lasting more than 10 minutes. In addition to the six points by Siva during that stretch, Dieng added eight points and Smith contributed seven more.

The Blue Devils never pulled single digits of Louisville for the remainder of the game. Plumlee led Duke with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Curry and Quinn Cook, who both scored 12, were the only other Blue Devils in double figures. The team struggled through foul trouble and poor shooting for much of the night.

Louisville now travel to Atlanta next weekend to face ninth-seeded Wichita State for a chance to play in the national championship game.

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