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Louisville storms back against Florida to reach Final Four

Mar 25, 2012 - 12:55 AM Phoenix, AZ (Sports Network) - Rick Pitino got the best of his protege Billy Donovan once again.

Chane Behanan netted 17 points, including the go-ahead jumper with 1:06 remaining, as Louisville punched its ticket to the Final Four with a 72-68 triumph over Florida in the West Regional final.

After Russ Smith nailed a pair of foul shots to put Louisville up by three with 16 seconds left, Bradley Beal and Erving Walker each missed their three- point attempts in the final 11 seconds.

Smith added 19 points for the fourth-seeded Cardinals (30-9), who stormed back from an 11-point second-half deficit and closed the game on an 18-3 run. Peyton Siva had nine points and eight assists, but fouled out with 3:58 to play.

Louisville will play the winner between Kentucky and Baylor in next Saturday's Final Four in New Orleans.

Pitino moved to 7-0 against Donovan, the sharp-shooting guard who helped Pitino reach his first Final Four while at Providence in 1987.

"Florida was brilliant," Pitino said. "It hurts to see Billy lose. But I've been proud of a lot of teams and I've said this team reminds me of the '87 team."

The seventh-seeded Gators (26-11), who were 8-of-11 from beyond the arc in the opening 20 minutes, became stagnant offensively in the second stanza.

Florida went 0-for-9 from three in the second half.

"I was concerned going into the game just with a one-day prep really being able to attack their match-up zone, their changing zone," Donovan said. "Our guys did a terrific job the first half, attacking it, moving it, passing the basketball. They did a great job. And we obviously forced them in the second half to play a lot of man-to-man. And they played switching man-to-man to take away the three."

Beal and Erik Murphy tallied 14 points apiece to pace the Gators.

Patric Young's dunk with 8:16 remaining gave Florida a 65-54 advantage until Behanan and Smith helped the Cardinals get back in it with a 10-0 run.

"They outplayed us, for 32 minutes they outplayed us," Pitino said.

Behanan ignited the surge with a trey and jumper, and Smith capped it with a triple and a floater in the paint, making it a 65-64 game with about five minutes left.

Young made 1-of-2 from the line before Behanan tied the game at 66 with a layup with 3:07 remaining.

Kenny Boynton's jumper put Florida back on top, 68-66, with 2:39 left, but the Cardinals netted the last six points of the contest.

Chris Smith made 1-of-2 from the stripe, and after Boynton's missed jumper, Behanan put the Cardinals up for good with a jumper, making it 69-68 with 1:06 left.

After Russ Smith put the Cardinals up by three with a pair from the line, Beal missed a straightaway trey with 11 seconds to go and Boynton's right-wing three-pointer hit off the front of the rim.

Wayne Blackshear made 1-of-2 from the line with nearly three seconds to go, sending Louisville to its ninth Final Four, the seventh most in NCAA Tournament history.

Louisville, which turned the ball over just six times, tallied 15 points off of 14 Florida turnovers.

After they began 3-of-6 from three-point range, the Gators nailed their next five shots from deep, helping them obtain a 41-33 halftime advantage.

Game Notes

Louisville last reached the Final Four in 2005...Only five coaches have been to more Final Fours than Pitino (6)...The Cardinals moved to 9-3 in regional championship games...Louisville moved to 8-1 all-time against Florida...The Gators, who shot 66.7 percent in the opening half, were just 37 percent from the field in the second frame...Florida fell to Butler in the Elite Eight last season.