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This sweet matchup of top programs featured two of college basketball’s best short-preparation coaches.

Pitino has used his speed-the-opponent-up system to reach the Final Four five times, becoming the first coach to lead three different schools to the national semifinals. Once past the NCAA tournament’s first week, he’s had a knack for guiding his team further along the bracket, going 10-0 in the regional semifinals.

Izzo has spent his 17 years at Michigan State building teams that can handle the rigors of the Big Ten or switch to greyhound mode when the opponent plays fast. He’s been as consistent as any coach in the game, leading the Spartans to the Final Four six times, including the 2000 national title, and 10 trips to the regionals round the past 15 years.

Izzo played the right hand the last time these two basketball brains met, taking the Spartans to the 2009 Final Four after they found a way to break Louisville’s pressure.

Pitino had something up his sleeve this time.

With Michigan State bogging the game down, the Cardinals struggled early, missing 12 of their first 13 shots. They snapped out of it by hitting 3s.

Russ Smith hit a pair, Jared Swopshire and Chris Smith each dropped one in and, even Dieng — 0 for 2 in his career previously — got one to go in.

Swopshire closed it out with a 3 from the corner to put the Cardinals up 23-18 at halftime. Louisville was 7 of 15 from the arc in the half, but got almost nothing inside, hitting 1 of 15 shots from two-point range.

“Our game plan was to cut off the paint,” Izzo said. “I thought we did actually a very good job of that. And yet they hit some 3’s.”

Louisville shifted gears to open the second half, getting two layups and a dunk to keep its cushion. Swopshire followed with an alley-oop to Siva for the point guard’s first points, then stole the inbound pass to set up two free throws by Russ Smith that put the Cardinals up 35-25.

Michigan State managed a short run to get within four, but Louisville used its pressure to get a couple of steals and baskets to go up 43-32. Dieng followed with a couple more swats — one on Keith Appling that sailed into the stands — to keep the Spartans at arm’s length.

“He played an exceptional game,” Pitino said.

Good enough to get Louisville into the regional final for the third time in six years, a trip to New Orleans and the Final Four within its sight.