Louisville defeats Saint Louis, advance to Sweet 16

Louisville+Cardinals%27+guard+Russ+Smith+finished+the+game+with+11+points%2C+seven+assists+and+three+rebounds.

Ty Wright / Valencia Voice

Louisville Cardinals' guard Russ Smith finished the game with 11 points, seven assists and three rebounds.

ORLANDO — Luke Hancock and Russ Smith combined for 32 points, helping the defending National Champion Louisville Cardinals advance to the Sweet 16 by defeating the Saint Louis Billikens 66-51 on Saturday at the Amway Center.

Hancock finished the game with 21 points, while Smith had 11 points and 7 assists for the Cardinals.

Louisville dominated Saint Louis early in the game, jumping out to a 25-16 lead by halftime.

The Cardinals defense did their part in the first half, holding the Billikens to 28.6% shooting from the floor.

“The emphasis we put on taking the three-point shot away was big,” said Louisville head coach Rick Pitino following the game. “We just wanted to grind out a W.”

Saint Louis opened up the second half on a 13-2 run, which erased Louisville’s halftime lead and gave the Billikens a 29-27 lead with 14:15 remaining in regulation.

The Cardinals would bounce back however by going on a 6-0 run during the next minute and a half to regain the lead.

“We got loose with the ball there.” said Saint Louis’ Rob Loe about what happend after the Billikens were able to take the lead. “I think we had a few turnovers right in that stretch”

Louisville would finish the game on a 39-22 run, from the time Saint Louis took the lead, until the final buzzard.

Montrezl Harrell notched a double-double for the Cardinals, with his 10 point, 11 rebound performance.

“We were just successful tonight, but we weren’t going to give up the three.” said Pitino after the game.

The Billikens finished the game going 0-15 from behind the 3-point line, while shooting 39.6 percent from the floor.

With the win Louisville now advance to their 20th Sweet 16 appearance, which ties them for fourth with Kansas on the all-time Sweet 16 appearances list.

“We we were real proud of our effort defensively.” said Pitino. “We grinded out a win, and that’s what the NCAA Tournament is all about.”

Louisville will now advance to the Sweet 16, where they will face the winner of Wichita State/Kentucky on Friday, March 28 in Indianapolis, Ind.