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No. 1 seed Michigan State knocked off by Louisville

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Associated Press
March 23, 2012
— Ohio State won the Battle of the Buckeye State and advanced to the NCAA regional finals for the first time since 2007.

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.


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 East Regional finals. The top-seeded Orange advanced earlier Thursday at the TD Garden by beating fourth-seeded Wisconsin 64-63.


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


The state of Ohio placed four teams in the round of 16, and the Buckeyes are the first to advance. Ohio plays North Carolina and Xavier plays Baylor today.


Despite just about 100 miles separating their campuses along I-71, Ohio State and Cincinnati had played just once since the 1962 national championship game.


This one was evenly matched—for about 30 minutes.


Wearing Day-Glo orange shoelaces and piping on their jerseys, Cincinnati (26-11) fell behind by 12 at the half before going on a 19-4 run early in the second. It was ahead 52-48 with 11:34 to play when Ohio State took over, allowing just one free throw over the next 5½ minutes.


That effectively ended the season for Cincinnati, which fought its way back into prominence after a Dec. 10 brawl with crosstown rival Xavier.


The Musketeers, who were unbeaten and No. 8 in the nation at the time, lost their top three scorers and then five of their next six games. But Cincinnati, which fell to 5-3 with the 23-point loss at Xavier, won 10 of its next 11 games despite using a four-guard offense made necessary by the six-game suspensions of Yancy Gates and center Cheikh Mbodj.


The Bearcats reached the final of the Big East tournament and beat Texas and Florida State in the NCAAs to reach the regional semifinals for the first time since 2001.


Ohio State, which lost to Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game, reached the round of 16 by beating 15th-seeded Loyola of Maryland and No. 7 seed Gonzaga.


The Buckeyes led Cincinnati by five when Thomas hit back-to-back 3-pointers and Ohio State scored 10 of the last 13 points in the half to open a 37-25 lead. But Cincinnati opened the second half with a run of its own, tying it 41-all on JaQuon Parker’s baby hook shot in the lane.


The Bearcats led 52-48 on Gates’ three-point play with 11:34 left. But Ohio State went on a 17-1 run to turn the four-point deficit into a 12-point lead.


West Regional

-- Louisville 57, Michigan State 44—At Phoenix, Michigan State’s guards struggled with Louisville’s pressure and the big men had a hard time getting shots to fall.


Everyone had trouble with Gorgui Dieng.


Dieng blocked seven shots and top-seeded Michigan State had more turnovers than field goals in a 13-point loss to Louisville.


“We just missed some shots that we have hit (in the past),” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “But I also thought they disrupted us a little bit and we just didn’t have enough guys that could play well.”


Michigan State (29-8) started slowly and never got going against Louisville’s amoebic defense.


The Spartans got shots they wanted and usually make, but couldn’t get many to fall against Dieng or anyone else, shooting 28 percent while being outscored 20-14 inside by the leaner Cardinals.


Green had 13 points and 16 rebounds in his final game for Michigan State, which had 16 turnovers and 15 field goals. Brandon Wood added 14 points for the Spartans, who were outscored 17-4 off the bench.


The Cardinals (29-9) relied on three-point shooting in the first half and moved inside in the second to befuddle the Spartans.


Their defense gave Michigan State fits all night.


Instead of trapping like it normally does, Louisville played a bait-and-switch game with the Spartans and Green, their multitalented forward. The idea was to jump out on screens and to make the Spartans work on every possession and, hopefully, wear them out.


It worked, in large part because Dieng was in the back to clean things up.


Tent-pole thin when he arrived at Louisville, the Senegalese center worked hard on his body and his game, developing into the one player the Cardinals had to have on the floor. When he got in foul trouble, Louisville labored, so one of the key parts of coach Rick Pitino’s game plan was to make sure the Cardinals protected him.


They did and he protected the rim in return, getting five of his blocked shots in the second half to prevent Michigan State from mounting any kind of rally. The Cardinals move on to the West final against Florida and coach Billy Donovan, who played under Pitino at Providence.


“When we came here, we know (what) we’re going to face,” said Dieng, who also had five points, nine rebounds and three steals while matching the school record for blocked shots in an NCAA tournament game. “We knew we were going to come to a war. We need to be tougher than them to win this game.”



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