Louisville contains, conquers Villanova Cardinals halt early Lawson-Kittles run as 3rd seed falls, 68-64

March 18, 1996|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

MILWAUKEE - The team of overachievers did it again.

Alvin Sims kept Villanova from getting away early and Louisville found its overall shooting touch to upset the third-seeded Wildcats, 68-64, yesterday in the second round of the NCAA Midwest Regional at the Bradley Center.

Louisville (22-11) advanced to a regional semifinal matchup with Wake Forest.

The Wildcats appeared en route to the expected outcome when Jason Lawson controlled the inside and All-American Kerry Kittles unleashed a stretch of 10 straight Villanova points to build a 21-14 lead.

But after that assault, Louisville controlled the next 13 minutes and surged into a 49-36 advantage by shutting down Lawson and Kittles.

There wasn't much else for the Wildcats (26-7), whose "on a mission" run ended quickly.

"We didn't shoot the ball well from three [point territory] and that's always a big part of our arsenal," said Villanova coach Steve Lappas, whose team lost as a third seed in the first round to Old Dominion last year. "When we don't shoot well from three, we struggle."

Villanova's primary outside shooter, Eric Eberz, was 1-for-10 from the field and the team went 2-for-11 from beyond the arc. That simply wasn't going to compensate for the containment of Kittles (20 points) and Lawson (23) wrought by Louisville.

Sims packed 12 of his 14 points into the first half for the Cardinals, who had to scramble to beat Tulsa, 82-80, in overtime in the first round.

Then, Louisville found its fluidity, took care of the ball (eight turnovers) and sank seven threes to prevail.

"Alvin and the defense kept us in the game," said Louisville coach Denny Crum. "Then, once the flow came, I felt pretty good about where we were."

DeJuan Wheat (33 in the tournament opener) warmed up after a two-point first half and started getting his looks. Samaki Walker slowed Lawson and Tick Rogers played a strong all-around game.

Villanova made the expected run, coming from 13 behind to within 61-59 before Rogers buried a fadeaway jumper that Lappas called "the shot of the game."

Wheat then beat the clock and Kittles with a jumper for a 65-60 Louisville edge and the Cardinals were in their fifth Sweet 16 in the last 10 years.

It was nothing new for the Cardinals, who "have played these kinds of games all the way down the stretch," said Crum. "Our guys have learned to play at this level. We haven't had an easy game for a long time."

"It's a relief," said Wheat, who finished with 19 points. "We went through some trouble early in the season so to make it to the Sweet 16 has topped it off."

And for Villanova, there was the despair that has become familiar in this tournament in recent years.

"Of course I'm disappointed. It was my last game," said Kittles, a senior who is a likely NBA lottery pick. "We knew it was going to be a tough game, though. We're not shocked at all."

Pub Date: 3/18/96

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