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The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

Defensive effort helps Louisville avoid another early exit

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De'Mon Brooks and Wayne Blackshear (Getty Images)

PORTLAND, Ore. — Again the selection committee shipped Louisville out West. Again the Cardinals received a No. 4 seed. Again their opponent was a potentially feisty No. 13 seed.

Yes, there were a lot of similarities between Louisville's opening-round loss to Morehead State last March and its game against Davidson on Thursday, but the outcome wasn't one of them. The Cardinals avoided a second straight early NCAA tournament exit, dispatching the Wildcats 69-62 to earn a Round of 32 matchup with either fifth-seeded New Mexico or 12th-seeded Long Beach State.

"We're real proud of our effort," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "We wanted to really pressure them without trapping to try to take their legs out a little bit, because they're such a great shooting team, that if you let them have their legs you could be in for a long night."

If 3-point shooting was what made Davidson a potential upset candidate entering play on Thursday, then it's not difficult to determine why the Wildcats'  hopes of a victory didn't materialize. A Davidson team that averages 78.4 points per game and was among the national leaders in made threes per game sank only 4 of 19 from behind the arc and needed almost 32 minutes to reach 40 points.

Credit Louisville's length and defensive pressure for taking the Wildcats out of any semblance of offensive rhythm even with  shot-blocking 7-footer Gorgui Dieng only logging 19 minutes as a result of foul trouble.  Davidson's De'Mon Brooks, the Southern Conference Player of the Year, made just 1 of 7 shots for five points, 11 below his season average.

"I think it was a combination of Louisville's great defense and us missing shots," Davidson coach Bob McKillop said. "There were several times we had wide-open looks and just didn't knock them down.

"Factor in Louisville pressured you from end line to end line the entire game.  And while it may not show its ugly head in terms of turnovers, I think it wears you down.  And when you have to do that it takes away some of your legs."

The offense for Louisville came mostly via forward Chane Behanan and point guard Peyton Siva. Behanan scored 14 points, grabbed 11 boards and dominated the offensive glass, while Siva consistently beat Davidson's guards off the dribble, scoring 17 points and dishing out six assists.

Still, even after one of his better offensive games in recent weeks, all Siva wanted to talk about was Louisville's defense.

"We just tried to wear their guards out, so later on in the game it would affect their free-throw shooting and their 3‑point shooting," Siva said. "We tried to keep pressure on them."

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