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NCAA Sweet Sixteen: Cardinals smash top-seed Spartans

By John Marshall

Associated Press

Published: Friday, March 23 2012 12:21 a.m. MDT

With Michigan State bogging the game down, the Cardinals struggled early, missing 12 of their first 13 shots. They snapped out of it by hitting 3s.

Russ Smith hit a pair, Jared Swopshire and Chris Smith each dropped one in and, even Dieng — 0 for 2 in his career previously — got one to go in.

Swopshire closed it out with a 3 from the corner to put the Cardinals up 23-18 at halftime. Louisville was 7 of 15 from the arc in the half, but got almost nothing inside, hitting 1 of 15 shots from two-point range.

"Our game plan was to cut off the paint," Izzo said. "I thought we did actually a very good job of that. And yet they hit some 3's."

Louisville shifted gears to open the second half, getting two layups and a dunk to keep its cushion. Swopshire followed with an alley-oop to Siva for the point guard's first points, then stole the inbound pass to set up two free throws by Russ Smith that put the Cardinals up 35-25.

Michigan State managed a short run to get within four, but Louisville used its pressure to get a couple of steals and baskets to go up 43-32. Dieng followed with a couple more swats — one on Keith Appling that sailed into the stands — to keep the Spartans at arm's length.

"He played an exceptional game," Pitino said.

Good enough to get Louisville into the regional final for the third time in six years, a trip to New Orleans and the Final Four within its sights.

SYRACUSE 64, WISCONSIN 63: At Boston, top-seeded Syracuse used a breakout game by the slumping C.J. Fair to advance to the East Regional final.

Wisconsin missed two potential winning shots in the final seconds, and the Orange hung on to reach the round of eight for the first time since 2003, when they won their only national championship.

Fair, who had scored a total of 20 points in his last six games, finished with 15 on 7-for-9 shooting. Scoop Jardine had 14 points, while Dion Waiters had 13 and Brandon Triche 11.

Kris Joseph, a 75 percent free throw shooter, missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 18 seconds to go with Syracuse up by a point, giving the Badgers a chance at the victory.

Passing the ball around the perimeter of the zone but creating much space, Jordan Taylor let go a 3-point attempt with 3 seconds left. It bounced off the rim and Josh Gasser's shot at the buzzer was off.

Jared Berggren and Taylor both had 17 points for the Badgers (26-10), who finished 14 of 27 from 3-point range but couldn't make one over the final 6 minutes.

Syracuse (34-2) plays Ohio State in the regional final Saturday.

OHIO STATE 81, CINCINNATI 66: At Boston, Deshaun Thomas scored 26 points and Jared Sullinger had 23 points and 11 rebounds to lead second-seeded Ohio State to an 81-66 victory over No. 6 seed Cincinnati on Thursday night, putting the Buckeyes in the East Regional finals.

Aaron Craft added 11 points — all in the second half — with five assists and six steals, taking charge during a 17-1 second-half run that turned a four-point deficit into a double-digit lead.

Cashmere Wright scored 18 and Sean Kilpatrick had 15 for the Bearcats, who were attempting to match Big East rival Syracuse by beating a Big Ten opponent to advance to the round of eight. The top-seeded Orange advanced earlier Thursday by beating fourth-seeded Wisconsin at the TD Garden.

It's the first trip to the regional finals for Ohio State (30-7) since 2007, when it lost in the national championship game to Florida.

FLORIDA 68, MARQUETTE 58: At Phoenix, Bradley Beal scored 21 points Thursday to lift Florida to a victory and set up Gators coach Billy Donovan with a meeting against his old boss, Rick Pitino, in the West Regional final.

The seventh-seeded Gators (26-10) expanded a six-point halftime lead to double digits, then held off third-seeded Marquette (27-8) to take their second straight trip to the regional final. Last year, they lost to Butler. This time, they meet Louisville and Pitino.

Beal, a freshman who has NBA written all over him, shot 8 for 10 and had six rebounds and four assists.

Marquette got 15 points from Jae Crowder and 14 from fellow senior Darius Johnson-Odom, but the Golden Eagles exited the tournament in the round of 16 for the second straight year.

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