Montrezl Harrell scored 24 points, reserve Anton Gill keyed a late-game surge, and Louisville beat North Carolina State, 75-65, on Friday night in the East Regional semifinals of the NCAA Tournament.
Louisville (27-8), the fourth seed in the East and seeking to make its third Final Four in four years, will play either No. 3 seed Oklahoma or seventh-seeded Michigan State in the East final on Sunday. The Sooners and Spartans played in Friday's nightcap in the Carrier Dome.
After toppling top-seeded Villanova, North Carolina State (22-14), the eighth seed, saw its postseason run end against a team that refused to quit.
Louisville wasn't given much chance of playing in late March after it lost two of three entering the NCAA Tournament, but gritty wins over UC Irvine and Northern Iowa had the Cardinals brimming with confidence.
Terry Rozier had 17 points and 14 rebounds and freshman guard Quentin Snider added 14 points for the Cardinals.
Louisville coach Rick Pitino has a 12-1 record in Sweet 16 games, 6-1 with the Cardinals.
Trevor Lacey led the Wolfpack with 18 points, while Ralston Turner had 12 and Kyle Washington 11.
Anthony “Cat” Barber, the spark of the Wolfpack's attack, finished with eight points on three-of-14 shooting, only briefly getting untracked early in the second half.
Before the game, Pitino promised a surprise and Gill delivered in spades. Gill, who averaged 9.5 minutes and 2.4 points during the season, hit a runner and a three-pointer from the right corner in a span of a minute as Louisville regained the lead late in a seesaw game. He followed with a baseline drive for a 62-57 lead with 3:33 left.
Lacey missed and Rozier stormed back on a fast break, his off-balance shot caroming in off the back of the iron as Turner committed a foul. Rozier calmly made the free throw to complete a three-point play for a 65-57 lead with 3:05 left.
Harrell's driving layup with 1:41 to go boosted the lead to 67-57 and that effectively put an end to the Wolfpack's postseason run.
The teams met during the regular Atlantic Coast Conference season, with the Wolfpack winning 74-65 on the road on Valentine's Day behind Barber's 21 points.
The Cardinals are not the same team. Standout guard Chris Jones, an offensive catalyst and master of the steal, was dismissed from the team for off-the-court problems. Snider stepped in and has gained confidence, scoring 26 points and snaring nine rebounds in Louisville's first two tournament wins.
The changes have been noticeable. With seven freshmen, the pressure Pitino's teams thrive on has picked up. In Louisville's 66-53 win over Northern Iowa on Sunday night, the Cardinals held the Panthers to 39 percent shooting, forced 10 turnovers and outrebounded them 30-25.
In this one, the Wolfpack's bigs faltered repeatedly inside as Louisville outscored N.C. State 40-24 in the paint and finished 27 of 54 from the field. State's BeeJay Anya, Abdul-Malik Abut and Lennard Freeman combined to shoot four of 14 and registered just three blocks, one fewer than the Cardinals.
Before the start of the second half, North Carolina State coach Mark Gottfried pulled Barber aside at the bench, put his arm around his neck and gave him a pep talk before tapping him on the rear end. Held scoreless in the first half, Barber responded by draining two 3-pointers to boost the Wolfpack's lead to 39-31.
Unfazed, Louisville responded with a 16-2 run to regain the lead. Snider hit a 3 from the right wing just seconds after Mangok Mathiang had stuffed Abu at the rim and two free throws by Wayne Blackshear put the Cardinals up 47-41 with 12:58 left.
Determined to keep its storybook run going, the Wolfpack rallied again. Lacey's three-pointer from the top of the key gave them a 54-53 lead with 7:15 left.
N.C. State rallied from 16 points down in the second half against LSU and won by a point on Anya's basket with 0.1 on the clock, then imposed its will on Villanova.
They were unable to duplicate that performance against the Cardinals, who limited N.C. State to 38.3% shooting (23 of 60).