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Originally published Monday, April 1, 2013 at 1:02 AM

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Even with 3-game losing streak, Cards kept faith

A lot of people may have written off Louisville after the Cardinals lost three straight in January.

AP National Writer

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INDIANAPOLIS —

A lot of people may have written off Louisville after the Cardinals lost three straight in January.

Not the Cardinals.

"We knew all along that we were good, and we knew how great of a team we are," Russ Smith said. "We had faith in each other. All we had to do was put it together."

Louisville had climbed to No. 1 in the country after winning 16 of its first 17 games. But in its first game as the top-ranked team, Louisville fell at home to Syracuse. Losses at Villanova and Georgetown followed. The three-game losing streak was the Cardinals' longest in three years, and dropped them all the way to No. 12.

The Cardinals won their next three before losing a five-overtime thriller at Notre Dame. They haven't lost since, and will roll into the Final Four on a 14-game winning streak.

"We figured out what we needed to do from our losses. We learned from them," Peyton Siva said. "We learned from the Villanova loss that we had to make free throws. From the Syracuse loss, that I can't turn the ball over in that situation to end the game. We nitpicked every little thing we did and came together as a team and decided that the team is more important than us individuals.

"Today it really showed what an actual team can do when you really play together."

Despite Kevin Ware shattering his leg with 6:33 left in the first half, a gruesome injury that devastated the Cardinals, they managed to pull themselves together and blow out Duke. The 85-63 earned Louisville a second straight trip to the Final Four.

"Going to the Final Four again for the second time, it was really hard to do," Smith said. "Everyone had to put all the other stuff aside and focus and have one main goal and one main objective. I think we did a tremendous job just giving it our all."

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