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Louisville earns spot in Big East final

Mar 10, 2012 - 7:50 AM New York, NY (Sports Network) - Gorgui Dieng netted 16 points on a perfect 8-of-8 shooting night to pace Louisville over 23rd-ranked Notre Dame, 64-50, in the semifinals of the Big East Tournament.

Peyton Siva tallied 13 points, nine assists and eight rebounds for the Cardinals (25-9), who advanced to play Cincinnati in Saturday night's championship game. The fourth-seeded Bearcats shocked second-ranked Syracuse, 71-68, in the first semifinal at Madison Square Garden.

Kyle Kuric scored 12 for seventh-seeded Louisville, which is in the title contest for a third time in four years. The Cardinals won their first Big East tourney title in 2009 and lost in the final to Connecticut last year.

Eric Atkins had 12 points and Jack Cooley ended with 11 points and 11 boards for the third-seeded Fighting Irish (22-11), who will await Sunday's decision to see where they'll be seeded for the NCAA Tournament.

It was a rough first half for the Irish, who went 7-of-28 from the field. That included a 1-of-11 performance from three-point range. Meanwhile, Louisville went to the high-percentage shot and capitalized by going 15-of-26, including making several layups.

Also, the Cardinals held Notre Dame without a field goal for the final 12 1/2 minutes of the half.

"We had another chance tonight to do something we haven't done in our program before," Cooley said. "There was that one stretch that's really hard to overcome if you go 13 minutes without a field goal. That's a pretty big amount of decline to put yourself down that much. It's a pretty big disappointment but we've just got to move on to the next tournament. The next one next week is the biggest one in the whole season, so that's what we've got to focus on now."

It was a much different result than the Jan. 7 meeting that saw Notre Dame pull out a 67-65 win in double-overtime in South Bend.

"We were trying to obviously push the pace," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "We were trying to mix it up, and any time we got in a jam, we wanted to go inside to Gorgui because they don't trap the post and he did a very good job tonight of going to a variety of different moves, especially his jump hook. He's becoming a terrific player, and we're very fortunate to have him in our program because he's one of the most popular guys on the campus because he's such a terrific person."

Atkins made two from the charity stripe to get Notre Dame within 19-17 with 7 1/2 minutes left, but Dieng's layup started a string of 13 straight points for the Cardinals. Siva's jumper capped the run, and Chris Smith's three-ball in the closing minute boosted Louisville to a 35-19 halftime cushion.

Notre Dame, which has never reached a Big East tourney final, continued to struggle early in the second half. Smith's layup expanded the margin to 45-27 inside 14 minutes left, and the Irish soon found themselves down by 24 at 53-29 following Kuric's three with 11 1/2 minutes left.

Amazingly, Louisville won by a wide margin despite going to the foul line just four times (3-of-4) and was outrebounded, 33-28.

Game Notes

Louisville ended shooting 56 percent...Jerian Grant had eight points and four steals for Notre Dame, but was 1-of-7 from three-point range.