By Tom Hurley | @TomHurleyKernel
Louiville and Marquette were both victorius at Rupp Arena on Saturday to advance to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament.
Junior guard Russ Smith’s 27 points and team-wide pressure defense lifted No. 1 overall seed Lousiville past No. 8 seed Colorado State.
Louisville out-rebounded a Colorado State team that led the nation in rebounding margin entering Saturday’s game. The Cardinals also won the steals battle 11-0.
“Ball containment was the key. That’s the way they rebound,” Louisville head coach Rick Pitino said. “They drive by you, they force you to help, and then they overpower you with rebounding. Our guys were magnificent tonight.”
Louisville’s 14-point halftime lead matched its 14-point advantage in points off turnovers at the half.
The Cardinal defense continued to press as the second period got underway, enabling Pitino’s side to force 24 turnovers on the game and outscore the Rams 42-14 in the paint.
Lousville extended its advantage as the half wore on, ultimately winning, 82-56.
“We just got ambushed,” Colorado State head coach Larry Eustachy said. “This game’s close then of all of a sudden it’s 26.”
Smith scored at will, going 7-of-15 from the floor including 4-of-7 from distance.
In three career games at Rupp Arena, Smith has averaged 26.6 points per game.
“I just play hard no matter what venue I’m at,” Smith said. “For big games I like to really prepare myself and have a big game.”
Those who stayed behind after the Cards’ win were rewarded with a thriller between No. 3 seed Marquette and No. 6 seed Butler.
The Bulldogs held a lead for most of the game until a Marquette comeback triggered multiple lead changes over the final seven minutes.
Marquette held a two-point lead when Butler had sideline possession with 2.4 second to play.
Senior center Andrew Smith missed an off-balance three-pointer at the buzzer to give Marquette an 84-82 win.
“These are the games we’re built for,” said junior guard Vander Blue, who scored 29 points for the Golden Eagles. “We just always find ways to pull it out and just show our heart and our togetherness.”
Louisville will play its Sweet Sixteen game against No. 12 seed Oregon in Indianapolis on Friday. Marquette plays either No. 7 seed Illinois or No. 2 seed Miami in Washington D.C. on Thursday.