INDIANAPOLIS — Louisville Coach Rick Pitino has said that you can throw records and seeds out the window once you reach the Sweet Sixteen.
Then again, maybe not.
The Cardinals played like the tournament's No. 1 overall seed in Friday night's Midwest Regional semifinals against Arizona while the Wildcats played like a No. 12 seed that many said didn't belong in the tournament.
Louisville took control midway through the first half and built a 21-point halftime lead. The Cards kept pouring it on in the second half. The lead reached 35 midway through the second half and went up to as many as 41 on a Jared Swopshire dunk at the two-minute mark. The end result was one of the most devastating performances of the NCAA Tournament, a 103-64 win. It was the most points ever scored by a Louisville team in tournament play.
"It was a brilliant performance by our players, no question about it," Pitino said. "It was obvious our team played fabulous, unselfish basketball. I can't fault anything they did tonight."
Pitino improved to 9-0 in regional semifinal games, and Friday's show was a flashback to his old Kentucky days when the Cats were steamrolling teams in the Sweet 16. Pitino was able to clear the bench early and get his team ready for Sunday's showdown with the Michigan State-Kansas winner for a trip to the Final Four in Detroit.
The Cards put every element of their arsenal on display. Playing in the cavernous Lucas Oil Stadium had no adverse effect on their outside shooting touch. They went 14-for-29 (48 percent) from behind the arc and 58 percent overall. Louisville's three-point display was set up by its passing, 29 assists on 38 field goals.
"Guys who had open shots were giving it to guys who had more open shots," junior guard Jerry Smith said. "That says a lot about our team and how far we've come."
"When we pass the ball, we knock down shots," junior forward Earl Clark added. "As long as we look for each other, we can get good looks all night."
And when Louisville wasn't hitting threes, it was flexing its inside muscle by throwing down dunk after dunk.
Clark was dominant, putting in 19 points and grabbing nine boards.
"Earl played passionate," Pitino said. "He always raises it to a new level in the tournament."
Smith added 16 points, including 4-for-8 three-point shooting. Terrence Williams had 14 points, seven rebounds and six assists, and the post duo of Samardo Samuels and Terrence Jennings combined for 21 points and 10 rebounds. Edgar Sosa came off the bench for 13 points and tied Williams for the team lead in assists with six.
U of L turned it over just nine times. And the Cards, the the worst free-throw shooting team among the Sweet Sixteen contestants, even cashed in at the line, sinking 13 of 14.
"Unfortunately for us, we had no answer," Arizona interim coach Russ Pennell said. "... We got lost on some rotations on the perimeter, and the game got away from us. Louisville is the No. 1 overall seed for a reason, and they showed it tonight. They're going to be tough to beat if they play like that. They had everything going tonight."
Junior forward Chase Budinger (game-high 22 points) showed up for the Wildcats, but that was about it. Center Jordan Hill, who's been projected as high as the No. 3 pick in the NBA Draft, had a horrible game. His 14 points in the box score are misleading because most of them came in garbage time. He went 6-for-18 from the floor and had four turnovers and four fouls in 32 minutes. Arizona's other big scorer, point guard Nic Wise, scored 14 points but was 4-for-14 from the floor.
"We wanted to take away their Big Three," Pitino said. "We switched up defenses from zone to man, and the guys did a great job making sure Hill didn't go off."
Going off like that in its Elite Eight matchup won't be nearly as easy for Louisville (31-5).
"We know we're not going to play like this again because of the type of defense we'll play," Pitino said. "It will be a different type of ball game."
"This is the best we've played all season," Smith said. "It's going to be tough to duplicate, but we're going to come and try."