Cardinals man defense is four-midable

March, 24, 2012
3/24/12
8:32
PM ET
The teacher prevails again as Rick Pitino’s Louisville Cardinals erase an 11-point second half deficit to beat Billy Donovan’s Florida Gators 72-68 and advance to their first Final Four since 2005.

This was the seventh all-time meeting between Pitino and Donovan as head coaches, and Pitino has still yet to lose to his student Donovan. Rick Pitino joins Roy Williams and Jack Gardner as the only coaches to take two schools to multiple Final Fours.

Déjà vu for Louisville?
The Cardinals appear to have destiny their side during their remarkable 8-0 run since the beginning of March.

Similar to last year’s national champion, the Connecticut Huskies, Louisville dropped four of its last six regular-season games. The Cardinals lost eight conference games, one fewer than the Huskies last year.

Like UConn, Louisville then stormed through the Big East Tournament, capturing the title in New York City, and has now reached the Final Four.

The last time that Louisville made the Final Four was 2005, when the Cardinals were also the 4-seed and won the West Regional.

In both 2005 and this year, Louisville beat the No. 1 seed by double digits in the Sweet 16, and played a No. 7 seed in the Regional Final.

And in the Elite Eight both years as well, the Cardinals had to overcome a hot shooting performance from their opponent to advance to the Final Four.

Turning point
Louisville mixed up its defense in the first half but couldn’t stop the Gators, allowing as many field goals in the first 20 minutes tonight (14) as it did Thursday in the entire game versus Michigan State.

Florida connected on 7-of-10 3-pointers against the Cardinals’ vaunted zone defense in the first half. In their first three tournament games, the Cardinals' zone limited opponents to 11-of-52 (21 percent) shooting from beyond the arc.

After allowing a made jumper while playing zone on the opening possession of the second half, the Cardinals played man-to-man defense the remainder of the game.

Florida then missed all eight of its long-distance attempts the rest of the way against Louisville's man defense and was outscored 39-27 in the second half.

After trailing by 11 with 8:16 left, Louisville finished the game on a 18-3 run. Florida made one of its final six paint attempts, two of which were blocked by Louisville. The Gators had made 12-of-15 field goals in the paint prior to the final eight minutes.

Florida’s historical obstacles
Entering Selection Sunday, the Gators had lost six of 10 games. Including this season, there were 75 teams since 1985 that entered the NCAA tournament with a 4-6 record or worse in the season's last 10 games.

Florida was just the third of those teams to reach the Elite Eight. The others were the 1986 North Carolina State Wolfpack and the 1997 Providence Friars.

Like the Gators, their incredible runs too ended with a loss in the Regional Final.

Stat of the game
No. 7 seeds are 0-7 all-time in the Elite Eight since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985.

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