PHOENIX — Gorgui Dieng swatted away the West Region’s top seed to send Rick Pitino into another regional final.
Chane Behanan scored 15 points and Dieng anchored Louisville’s stifling defense with seven blocked shots, helping the Cardinals knock off top-seeded Michigan State 57-44 Thursday night in the West Regional semifinals.
Louisville (29-9) smothered the NCAA tournament’s best-shooting team with its matchup zone, getting good pressure from its guards up top and some big swats by Dieng, one of the nation’s top shot-blockers.
The Cardinals relied on 3-point shooting in the first half and went inside the second to befuddle the Spartans, earning a trip to the West final against Marquette or Florida on Saturday.
Michigan State (29-8) started slow and never got going against Louisville’s amoebic defense, shooting 28 percent while being outscored 20-14 inside by the leaner Cardinals.
Dieng finished with five points, seven rebounds and had three steals. Peyton Siva overcame a rough shooting night — four points on 2-of-9 shooting — with nine assists.
Draymond Green had 13 points and 16 rebounds in his final game for Michigan State and Brandon Wood added 14 points.
This sweet matchup of top programs featured two of college basketball’s best short-preparation coaches.
Pitino has used his speed-the-opponent-up system to reach the Final Four five times, becoming the first coach to lead three different schools to the national semifinals. Once past the NCAA tournament’s first week, he’s had a knack for guiding his team farther along the bracket, advancing to the regional final all 10 times he’s gotten a team to the semifinals.
Tom Izzo has been in 17 years at Michigan State, building teams that can handle the rigors of the Big Ten or switch to greyhound mode when the opponent plays fast. He’s been as consistent as any coach in the game, leading the Spartans to the Final Four six times, including the 2000 national title, and 10 trips to the regionals round the past 15 years.
Izzo played the right hand the last time these two basketball brains met, taking the Spartans to the 2009 Final Four after they found a way to break Louisville’s pressure.
Pitino had something up his sleeve this time.
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 23-15 at halftime. Louisville was 7 of 15 from the arc in the half, but got almost nothing inside, hitting 1 of 15 shots from 2-point range.
Michigan State couldn’t seem to hit anything from anywhere, going 6-for-22 from the field, 2-for-9 from the arc.
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 from making a run.
Louisville outscored Michigan State by six inside and had a 17-4 advantage off the bench.
At Phoenix, Ariz.
US Airways Center
Louisville 57, Michigan St. 44
Siva 2-9 0-0 4, C. Smith 3-7 0-0 9, Dieng 2-5 0-0 5, Kuric 3-8 0-0 7, Behanan 6-10 3-7 15, R. Smith 3-10 3-4 11, Swopshire 2-4 0-0 6, Blackshear 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 21-55 6-11 57.
MICHIGAN ST. (29-8)
Payne 1-4 2-2 4, Appling 1-6 3-4 6, Thornton 1-3 0-0 3, Green 5-16 2-2 13, Wood 4-11 4-4 14, Byrd 0-1 0-0 0, Gauna 0-0 0-0 0, Kearney 0-1 0-0 0, Trice 0-1 0-0 0, Nix 2-6 0-0 4, Ianni 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 14-49 11-12 44.
Halftime — Louisville 23-18. Three-point goals — Louisville 9-23 (C. Smith 3-6, Swopshire 2-3, R. Smith 2-4, Dieng 1-1, Kuric 1-5, Behanan 0-1, Siva 0-3), Michigan St. 5-21 (Wood 2-8, Thornton 1-1, Appling 1-2, Green 1-7, Trice 0-1, Byrd 0-1, Kearney 0-1). Rebounds — Louisville 39 (Behanan, Dieng 9), Michigan St. 36 (Green 16). Assists — Louisville 15 (Siva 9), Michigan St. 12 (Appling 4). Total fouls — Louisville 11, Michigan St. 15. A — 14,913.