ST. LOUIS (Ticker) -- Roger Powell Jr. and Luther Head kept Illinois' remarkable season going.
Powell scored 18 of his 20 points and Head 14 of his 20 in the second half as the top-seeded Illini advanced to the NCAA Tournament title game for the first time with a 72-57 triumph over No. 4 Louisville.
Illinois (37-1), which is advancing to the national title game for the first time in five trips to the Final Four, will play North Carolina in Monday's championship game.
"We put April 4th on the board six weeks ago, seven weeks ago, and we are playing April 4th in the national championship," Illinois coach Bruce Weber said. "We are very excited."
"We just want to keep going," Head said. "We feel good about what we're doing and what we've accomplished, but we don't want it to end. Whoever we got next, we want to go out and play hard so we can finish this off."
The Illini, who matched the NCAA record for wins in a season, held just a 50-49 lead after a 3-pointer by Louisville's Taquan Dean with 10:25 remaining.
But Powell started an 11-0 run with a follow shot, Head made consecutive 3-pointers before Powell hit a short jumper and James Augustine split a pair of free throws for a 61-49 lead with 5:37 left. A minute later, Head hit his fourth 3-pointer of the half for a 64-51 lead that got the Edward Jones Dome's decidedly pro-Illinois fans out of their seats.
"It just was going, you know, in the second half," Powell said. "It was really a blessing. Seemed like it worked, I guess. I mean, it was just bouncing my way."
"Roger Powell, he just caught fire in the second half. That was really the difference in the game," Louisville center Ellis Myles said. "I think when he caught fire, Head stepped to the outside the second half and made big shots."
Louisville (33-5), which was trying to set a school record for wins, got no closer than nine points thereafter.
"Illinois was a better basketball team," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "They're a great team - a 3-point shot away from being without blemishes. I don't know if they necessarily had the greatest talent I've seen from a Final Four, but they're the best team I've seen in some time."
Myles scored 17 points to pace the Cardinals, who had won a national-best 13 straight games and 22 of 23. But Francisco Garcia, who entered the game averaging 21 points in the tournament, was shut down by Illinois' Deron Williams and was held to just four points on 2-of-10 shooting.
"What we found as the season progressed was that if he's on somebody that's good with the basketball, he concentrates," Weber said of Williams. "If it's a good player, he really takes pride in stopping them. He's a smart player. He's got a big body. He just never let Francisco get going. Our bigs did a good job also of helping, every time he came around, the bigs were there."
"I think early on that Francisco didn't let the game come to him, got caught taking some very difficult shots," Pitino said. "It mushroomed after that."
Williams had held Arizona's Salim Stoudamire to nine points on 2-of-13 shooting in the Chicago Region finals.
Illinois, which shot 6-of-19 from the arc against the Louisville zone in the opening 20 minutes, never trailed as it took a 31-28 edge into intermission. But Louisville's Larry O'Bannon scored the first five points of the second half as the Cardinals took their first and only lead.
Powell, who was limited to five minutes in the first half because of two fouls, then took over. Illinois started getting the ball inside and Powell scored nine straight points for the Illini.
A short jumper by Jack Ingram gave the Illini a 42-37 edge with 14 1/2 minutes left before Louisville tied it for the last time with five straight points. But Powell hit his second 3-pointer of the half to give Illinois the lead for good, 45-42, with 13:11 remaining.
The Illini hit 6-of-11 3-pointers in the second half.
"We got better ball movement (in the second half)," Weber said. "We got it inside. Once you get it inside, you suck 'em in, now we're getting it to the open shooters. We told them after halftime, we don't mind shooting the threes, but we wanted rhythm threes. I think that's what we did. We spread them a little more. Then once we spread 'em, we were able to get some inside touches."
Williams was held to five points on 2-of-7 shooting but had nine assists for the Illini, who shot 63 percent (15-of-24) in the second half and turned the ball over just seven times. Ingram had nine points and five rebounds in 21 minutes off the bench for Illinois, which held a 38-26 advantage on the glass.
Dean, who made 7-of-17 3-pointers in the regional final against West Virginia, was 2-of-9 from the arc in this one and finished with 12 points for Louisville, which shot 39 percent (21-of-54), including 6-of-20 from the arc.