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Louisville downs Notre Dame to advance to Big East final
New York, NY (Sports Network) - Peyton Siva tied a Big East Tournament record with seven steals to go with 12 points and six assists, as No. 4 Louisville downed No. 24 Notre Dame, 69-57, in semifinal action at Madison Square Garden.
The reigning conference tourney champs never trailed and pulled away late in the second half to reach the title game for the fourth time in the past five years. The second-seeded Cardinals (28-5) have won nine straight and will take on Syracuse in Saturday's finale.
Russ Smith had a game-high 20 points for Louisville and Luke Hancock added 11 thanks to 3-of-3 shooting behind the arc.
Notre Dame (25-9), playing its third game in as many days as the No. 6 seed, shot just 37 percent in falling in the semifinals for the fourth straight year. Jack Cooley and Jerian Grant led the Fighting Irish with 14 points each.
The last time Louisville lost came in a five-overtime thriller in South Bend on Feb. 9, but the Cardinals avenged that setback with a 16-point win over the Fighting Irish in the regular season finale and furthered their claim as a potential No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament with a convincing win Friday.
They closed it out with a 10-3 run after Notre Dame cut its deficit to four, 45-41, with 7 1/2 minutes remaining.
Smith started the spurt with a 3-pointer, and Siva went in for a transition layup after a steal on the ensuing possession. After Notre Dame's Pat Connaughton made a 3-pointer, Siva found Smith inside for a bucket and Hancock followed with a triple from the right side for a 55-44 lead.
The closest Notre Dame got in the final four minutes was seven, ending its bid for its first Big East Tournament championship appearance before leaving for the ACC next season.
Louisville led by as many as seven in the first half, with Hancock's corner 3- pointer just before the buzzer staking the Cardinals to a 32-25 cushion.
This was the third straight season these teams squared off in the semis ... Notre Dame is the first school to make it to four straight Big East semis since Connecticut did so from 2002-05 ... Smith tied Wes Unseld's single- season school record with 177 free throws made ... Connaughton made 15 3- pointers during the tournament, one shy of the record.
03/16 00:36:15 ET
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