Louisville, Michigan to meet for NCAA title
Teams will play on Monday at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta
The Associated Press
Posted: Apr 6, 2013 9:29 PM ET
Last Updated: Apr 6, 2013 11:49 PM ET
Louisville 72, Wichita State 68
Luke Hancock came off the bench to score 20 points, walk-on Tim Henderson sparked a second-half rally with a pair of monster 3s and Louisville advanced to the NCAA title game Saturday night, escaping with a 72-68 victory over Wichita State.
As the final buzzer sounded, a Louisville player tossed the ball high into the air and injured Kevin Ware stood up, thrusting his arms above his head.
It was the 15th straight victory for the top-seeded Cardinals (34-5), who will play the winner of Syracuse-Michigan for the national title Monday night. It is the Cardinals' first trip to the title game since they won it all in 1986.
Russ Smith led the Cardinals with 21 points, and Chane Behanan added 10.
Cleanthony Early had 24 for the ninth-seeded Shockers (30-9), who nearly pulled off their biggest upset of all. Wichita State had knocked off No. 1 seed Gonzaga and Ohio State on its way to its first Final Four since 1965, and it had a 12-point lead on the Cardinals with 13:35 to play. It was the largest deficit all tournament for the Cardinals, who seemed out of sorts with Ware on the bench, his broken right leg propped up on a chair.
But Louisville had come back to win five games after trailing by nine points or more already this year, including rallying from a 16-point deficit in the title game at the Big East tournament.
This one trumped them all.
Henderson, the walk-on who was forced into increased playing time because of Ware's injury, made back-to-back 3s to spark a 21-8 run. While Hancock and Behanan were knocking down shots, Smith and Peyton Siva were turning up the heat on the Shockers.
After going more than 26 minutes without a turnover, Siva darted in to strip the ball away from Carl Hall. He fed Hancock, who drilled a 3 that gave Louisville a 56-55 lead, its first since the end of the first half.
Early would give the Shockers one more lead, converting a three-point play. But Siva scored and then Smith stole the ball and took it in for an easy layup that gave Louisville a 60-58 lead with 4:47 left. Louisville fans erupted, and even Ware was on his feet, throwing up his arms and clapping. The Cardinals extended the lead to 65-60 on a tip-in of a Smith miss and another 3 by Hancock.
Wichita State had one last chance, pulling within 68-66 on Early's tip in with 22 seconds left. But the Shockers were forced to foul, and Smith and Hancock made their free throws to seal the victory.
The Cardinals were the overall No. 1 seed in the tournament, and they steamrolled their way through their first four games, winning by an average of almost 22 points. They limited opponents to 59 points and 42 per cent shooting while harassing them into almost 18 turnovers a game, setting an NCAA tourney record with 20 steals against North Carolina A&T.
Michigan 61, Syracuse 56
Don't call these guys the Fab Five.
Michigan's latest group of young stars is determined to leave its own legacy.
Attacking Syracuse's suffocating zone defence in the first half with 3-pointers, crisp passing and a fearless attitude, the Wolverines advanced to the national championship game with a 61-56 victory over the Orange in the Final Four on Saturday night.
Michigan (31-7) will be going for its first national title since 1989 when it faces Louisville on Monday at the Georgia Dome. Syracuse (30-10) failed to complete an all-Big East final in the fabled league's last season before breaking up.
The Wolverines got sloppy in the second half and had to hang on at the end, winning despite a tough night for Associated Press player of the year Trey Burke. He scored only seven points.
That made for some nervous moments as Michigan got a little too conservative trying to run out the clock.
Trailing 58-56, the Orange had a chance to force overtime. But Brandon Triche was called for a foul when Jordan Morgan stepped in to take the charge with 19.2 seconds left.
After Jon Horford made only one of two free throws, Syracuse called timeout and set up a play. Curiously, the Orange didn't attempt a tying 3-pointer. Instead, Trevor Cooney drove the lane looking to put up an easier shot. But the ball was swatted away, Michigan saved it from going out of bounds and Morgan wound up taking a long pass the other way.
He threw down a thunderous slam with just over a second remaining to cap the triumph.