PHOENIX — Louisville figured its game against Michigan State to be low-scoring, a natural expectation with two of the nation’s best defenses butting heads.
The Cardinals had one big advantage: Gorgui Dieng.
Dominating inside, Dieng blocked seven shots and altered several others to anchor a stifling defense that helped Louisville knock off top-seeded Michigan State 57-44 on Thursday night in the West Regional semifinals.
“He was very disruptive,” Michigan State’s Draymond Green said. “We’re not going to back down from anyone. We took it at him. He pulled off some great blocked shots. That’s what he does. That’s his strength.”
The Cardinals (29-9) relied on 3-point shooting in the first half and moved inside in the second to befuddle the Spartans. Their defense gave Michigan State (29-8) fits.
Instead of trapping like it normally does, Louisville played a bait-and-switch game with the Spartans. The idea was to jump out on screens, make the Spartans work on every possession and try to wear them out.
It worked, in large part because Dieng was in the back to clean things up.
“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.”
Louisville plays the winner of Thursday’s Marquette-Florida game Saturday.