Orlando, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - It wasn't pretty, but Louisville got 21 points from Luke Hancock and played its patented gritty defense throughout the contest to clip Saint Louis, 66-51, and advance to the Sweet 16 in the Midwest Region.
Hancock, the hero in fourth-seeded Louisville's (31-5) second round win over Manhattan, made four 3-pointers in the triumph. He scored eight of the Cardinals' final 11 points last round.
Louisville, which has reached the Final Four each of the past two seasons and won the national championship in 2013, awaits the winner of Sunday's clash between Wichita State and Kentucky. The Cardinals have met both schools in the tournament the past two seasons, falling to eventual champ Kentucky in 2012 and taking out the Shockers to reach last year's championship game.
Russ Smith and Chris Jones each netted 11 points while Montrezl Harrell donated 10 points with 11 rebounds for the Cards.
"This is a team that will turn you over, they'll grind it out, they play everybody close," said Louisville head coach Rick Pitino. "We grinded out a win, and that's what the NCAA Tournament is all about."
The Billikens (27-7) got 16 points and 10 boards from Dwayne Evans and 15 points with seven assists from Jordair Jett as both seniors enjoyed their final collegiate game.
"I thought we took a lot of good shots today," said Evans. "They weren't falling, but we had the right guys in the right spots."
Saint Louis missed all 15 of its 3-point tries and shot just 39.6 percent from the floor.
Hancock took an unintentional elbow to the face from Rob Loe early on, but it didn't impact his play. Hancock hit a pair of 3-pointers and two free throws to boost the Cardinals to an 8-4 lead early on. Out of the first media timeout, he drove and tossed an alley-oop to Mangok Mathiang.
Saint Louis, which went through its share of scoring droughts this season, could not figure out the Cardinals' stingy defense in the first half. At 7:21, Louisville had forced eight turnovers and just 3-of-13 shooting. SLU did just enough on the defensive end, however, and only trailed 14-6.
After Mike McCall's layup at 3:44 finally put the Billikens into double figures, Jones stepped into an NBA-range 3-pointer for a 19-11 margin. It was 25-16 at intermission.
Jett opened the second half with a tough layup 10 seconds in, and Saint Louis quickly made a game of it. Loe, who spent much of the first half on the bench with foul trouble, added a pair of free throws to pull the Billikens within 25-20.
After Hancock made two from the line, Evans and Jett converted layups and Evans tied the score with his three-point play at 14:33. Loe's transition layup moments later briefly put SLU on top.
Smith had four straight to restore Louisville's advantage, but at the second media timeout the Billikens had already surpassed their first half scoring output.
Saint Louis' upset bid fell apart midway through the final stanza. Loe's layup at 10:20 cut Louisville's lead to 41-37, but the Billikens went the next five minutes without a point. The Cardinals scored on six straight possessions, meanwhile, with Smith's lefty layup resulting in a 50-37 margin.
Louisville took care of business at the free throw line down the stretch.
The 41 combined halftime points were the lowest in the tournament since Butler and Bucknell had just 35 in a 2013 second round matchup ... Louisville has won seven games in a row and 14 of 15 overall ... Saint Louis outscored Louisville 40-26 in the paint ... SLU fell to 0-5 in the round of 32 since 1985. The only school with a worse mark in that time is New Mexico (0-6).
03/22 20:12:53 ET