University of Louisville

Louisville-Oregon pits Cards' strength vs. Ducks' weakness

Louisville coach Rick Pitino talked to guard Peyton Siva during a timeout in the second half against Colorado State. Photo by Matt Goins
Louisville coach Rick Pitino talked to guard Peyton Siva during a timeout in the second half against Colorado State. Photo by Matt Goins Herald-Leader

INDIANAPOLIS — In the category of turning the basketball over, Oregon was last in the Pac-12 this season, committing 14.9 per game.

In the category of forcing its opponents to turn the basketball over, Louisville was second in the nation, forcing 19 per game.

And there lies the contrast for Friday night's Midwest Region semifinal between No. 12 seed Oregon (28-8) and No. 1 seed Louisville (31-5).

"We had two games in the NCAA Tournament where we turned it over 18 times each night," Oregon Coach Dana Altman said Thursday. "We've got to figure out what the number is what we can live with."

Long story short, can the young, sometimes-sloppy Ducks survive against Louisville's relentless full-court pressure?

North Carolina A&T couldn't. In a second-round game in Rupp Arena last Thursday, Louisville recorded an NCAA Tournament-record 20 steals while forcing the Aggies into a season-high 27 turnovers.

Colorado State couldn't. In an 82-56 third-round loss to Louisville on Saturday, the Rams turned the basketball over 20 times, double their season average.

Meanwhile, as sharp as Oregon looked in tournament wins over Oklahoma State and Saint Louis, the Ducks turned the basketball over 36 times.

It committed four turnovers in the first 3:16 against Oklahoma State. It committed four turnovers in the first 4:37 against Saint Louis.

"We're going to make mistakes," Altman said. "Louisville does a great job of multiplying those mistakes into a number of baskets, and we've got to do a great job at just trying to keep that number down to a manageable figure."

"We're going to have some turnovers, but we just can't let that affect our attitude," Oregon forward Arsalan Kazemi said. "We've just got to play through it and try to get the ball across the court and after that make them guard us."

The Ducks have indeed proven to be a potent offensive team in their current five-game win streak.

They led Oklahoma State 37-26 halftime on the way to a 68-55 win over Travis Ford's team. Ford told his former coach, Rick Pitino, that Oregon was faster and bigger than the Ducks looked on video.

Then freshman guard Damyean Dotson made five three-pointers — Oregon connected on eight of 11 threes as a team — and scored 23 points as the Ducks cooled off Saint Louis 74-57 on Saturday.

"They move the ball really well," said Louisville point guard Peyton Siva.

The question is whether Oregon can move the ball across center court against that airtight Louisville press.

"We've made the comparison that it's almost the same situation that our football team runs into when teams are trying to get ready for them," said Altman, comparing Louisville's up-tempo aggressive defense with Oregon football's up-tempo aggressive offense.

"I don't think we can prepare for the speed of Louisville, their quickness, their guard quickness, their overall team speed and the different looks they throw at you. Rick does a great job of changing it up."

Pitino also does a great job in preparation. The Louisville coach is 10-0 in regional semifinals. His average margin of victory in the Sweet 16 is 22 points per game.

In the Sweet 16 last year in Phoenix, Louisville smothered Michigan State 57-44. In a 2009 Sweet 16 game here in Indianapolis, Louisville routed another Pac-12 team, Arizona, 103-64.

"I think this will be a very close game," Pitino predicted. "Their talent is exceptional. They rebound great. They're great defensively."

It's just that Oregon's weakness is Louisville's strength.

"I think our half-court offense is really good because we have a lot of threats that can score," said Oregon senior E.J. Singler. "We just need to get it to our half-court sets and run our stuff and we've got to execute."

"I think they're going to have a hard time guarding our half-court stuff," Kazemi said. "It's just a matter of us getting the ball across (half-)court."


No. 1 Louisville vs. No. 12 Oregon

What: Midwest Regional semifinal

Where: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis

When: 7:15 p.m.

TV: CBS-27 | Radio: WHAS-AM 840

Records: Louisville 31-5, Oregon 28-8

Series: Oregon leads 2-1

Last meeeting: Oregon won 90-63 on Nov. 24, 2001, at the Pape Jam in Portland, Ore.

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader