IT WAS OVER WHEN: Louisville, up five at the break, was in control throughout the second half. Michigan State cut the Cardinals lead to 49-42 with 2:40 remaining. Then Russ Smith sliced down the lane to put back Chane Behanan's missed foul shot to push Louisville ahead 51-42. Game. Set. Match.
KEY STATS: 39.1, 39-36 and 15-10
There were three reasons Louisville dispatched Michigan State - three-point shooting, rebounding and turnovers. The Cardinals made 9-23 three-pointers against the Spartans stingy defense, out-pacing Tom Izzo's squad by 12 points behind the arch. Louisville also out-rebounded the Spartans, one of the top rebounding outfits in the country, 39-36. The Cardinals hurt MSU with eight offensive rebounds in the first half, then sealed the deal on Smith late outback. UofL also won the turnover battle, forcing 15 MSU mistakes, while committing just ten for the game.
BIG PLAY: Louisville had a lot of big plays for the Cardinals. Jared Swopshire's three just before the halftime buzzer for a 23-18 advantage at the break. Swopshire's alley-oop to Peyton Siva. Smith's late putback. But there was no bigger play than Chris Smith's three-pointer with 9:43. After MSU had cut Louisville's lead to 35-31 with a 6-0 run midway through the final half, Smith squashed the Spartans momentum with a deep dagger that re-ignited the Cards.
TURNING POINT: After the Spartans cut Louisville's lead down to four with 10:55, the Cardinals scored the games next five field goals to regain control 46-33 with 6:11 left. Behanan had four points during the stretch, Chris Smith drained a three, and Kyle Kuric scored on the break after a Chris Smith steal. Siva finished the run with a jumper.
TOP RESERVE Russ Smith has been the key reserve off the Louisville bench this season, and Thursday's showdown against the Spartans was no different. Though Swopshire's two first half threes helped Louisville gain early control, Smith, who scored 11 points, once again came up huge for the Cardinals. Whether it was draining threes - he hit two - crashing the boards - he had three, including the key putback, or dishing to open teammates - he had three assists - Smith contributed every conceivable way for Louisville. And get this, the 6-0 soph. had just one miscue in 17 minutes.