Louisville sneaks past New Mexico, earns spot in Sweet 16
Portland, OR (Sports Network) - Russ Smith poured in 17 points and Louisville held off New Mexico, 59-56, in the third round of the NCAA Tournament.
Chane Behanan and Kyle Kuric each added 10 points for the fourth-seeded Cardinals (28-9), who will face either No. 1 seed Michigan State or ninth- seeded Saint Louis in the West Regional semifinals, Thursday in Phoenix.
Drew Gordon, who limped off the court late in the first half after banging his knee against a teammate, came back and had 21 points and 14 rebounds for the Lobos. Kendall Williams tallied 11 points for New Mexico (28-7), which nearly rallied from a 15-point deficit in the second half.
Gordon's acrobatic tip-in after A.J. Hardeman's missed tip-jam, had the Lobos within 55-53 with just over a minute left.
Peyton Siva, who was limited to six points and five assists, then had his most important helper of the night for the Cardinals. The junior guard dribbled to the right of the lane, and delivered a pass on the money to the paint to a darting Gorgui Dieng for a two-handed jam with 32.3 seconds left.
"I think he wanted me to set up a pick-and-roll, and he said 'don't think anything, just grab and dunk it.' So I tried to listen to him and do the right thing," Dieng said.
Williams then missed a jumper and Demetrius Walker turned the ball over, resulting in a pair of Siva free throws.
Gordon made a long-distance shot with 2.9 seconds left. Elisha Justice missed the front end of a 1-and-1, but Gordon's full-court heave was wide of the backboard.
With 4:47 left in the first half, New Mexico got a scare when Gordon appeared to injure his left knee. That's when Hardeman fell backward into his teammate's body. Gordon limped to the locker room, but delivered a spark well after the Lobos fell behind 26-25 at the break and were down by double digits in the second half.
"It felt like my life flashed before my eyes," Gordon said. "I went up for -- to try to block a shot and A.J. was trying to take a charge. So when I was going up, he was coming down and forced me back down and he fell kind of against my leg in an awkward position. I felt a couple of pops, but the doc checked it out and it was okay. So I can't finish my senior season going out with an injury."
Chris Smith's three-pointer widened the lead for the Big East tourney champions to 44-29 with 13:03 left.
"We were just out of rhythm, out of sync offensively, I thought," New Mexico coach Steve Alford said. "And then to start the second half, I think they really came at us and got some easy baskets, which we hadn't given up in the first half. Then we settled down and started guarding and we made a run ourselves and made some shots in that stretch. It was a game where we didn't make very many shots."
The Lobos then came calling with Gordon hitting a jumper and a layup during a big run. Williams canned a three to get the Lobos within 47-42 with 7:18 to go, and Gordon later threw down an alley-oop dunk and hit two free throws for a 49-46 margin with 5:09 left to set up the wild finish.
Dieng had 10 rebounds and three blocks to go with six points...Louisville finished shooting 45.8 percent to 39.7 for New Mexico, which has never been to the Sweet 16...The fifth-seeded Lobos went 5-of-23 from three-point range.
03/18 01:30:51 ET