The second half was better, but every time the Ducks would make a run and get the lead back to single digits, Russ Smith would make a play to stem the tide. Smith had 31 points for Louisville despite fighting a case of the Martian Death Flu (or just a really bad cold).
So, how do you beat Louisville? Coach Altman has a few pointers.
First, get off to a good start. "When you let a good team like Louisville be the aggressor, because they're ahead, never make a play from behind, they're tough to beat," Altman said after the game.
He added, "They got transition baskets early. Second-chance opportunities. They had six points on put-backs very early in the ball game. And it just set a bad tone."
Another key is handling the Louisville press, which Oregon did surprisingly well, considering they ranked 288th nationally in turnovers entering the tournament. The Ducks actually won the turnover battle, giving it up 12 times to 13 for the Cards. Only one of those turnovers came as a result of the press, so the Ducks' four days of practicing new press breaks worked well. You shudder to think how badly they would have lost if they didn't handle the press.
Also, you'd better find a way to keep Russ Smith in front of you. But, Altman says, "I don't think there's an easy answer to that. Russ Smith is a talented young man."
Yes. Yes he is. And as Altman says, if it was that easy, "they probably wouldn't have won 32 ballgames." So file all of this under "Easier Said Than Done."