INDIANAPOLIS - Kevin Ware and the Louisville men’s basketball team are one win away from another final four. Ware scored a career-high 11 points, one of three players in double figures, as the top-seed Cardinals defeated No. 12 seed Oregon, 77-69 in the regional semi finals of the Midwest Region.
Louisville, which lost to Kentucky in the national semi finals a year ago, will play second-seeded Duke in Sunday’s regional final at 5:05 p.m.
Ware did most of his damage during an excellent first half off the bench. The sophomore, a 2011 Rockdale graduate, had nine points in the opening half and hit all four of his field goal attempts.
The 6-2 guard's only second-half basket was a big one late in the game, which helped Big East champion Louisville keep its distance from the Pac-12 champion Ducks. After Oregon had just gotten to within 70-64 on a jumper by Damyean Dotson with just over five minutes to play, Ware converted a beautiful runner off the backboard to get the advantage out to 72-64 at the 4:45 mark.
The lead for Louisville (32-5), which won its 13th consecutive game, wouldn’t fall below eight the rest of the way.
Ware has blossomed in his role as back up point guard to Peyton Siva. In the Cardinals’ third round win over Colorado State, Ware and Siva both handed out a game-high five assists. Friday, Ware was valuable again off the bench, and along with Siva and star guard Russ Smith (31 points), provide three big reasons why Louisville remains the national title favorite.
Ware's former Rockdale teammate, Florida Gulf Coast's Bernard Thompson, had his season come to an end Friday in the South Region in Arlington, Texas, Florida advanced to the regional final with a 62-50 victory.
Gulf Coast, which was the first No. 15 seed to reach the Sweet 16, started strong, going up by as many as 11 points in the opening half. But third-seeded Florida ended the first half on a 16-2 run and never trailed again after Mike Rosario knocked down a go-ahead 3-pointer to make it 27-24 with just under two minutes left until halftime.
Thompson, a sophomore guard coming off a game-high 23 points in the Eagles’ win over seventh-seeded San Diego State in the third round, finished with just six points in 26 minutes and fouled out with 2:46 to play.
Gulf Coast had its seven-game winning streak snapped and was held to its lowest point total since defeating Alcorn State, 50-48 on November 21. The Atlantic Sun champions finished 26-10.