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NCAA Championship Game vs. Michigan
Louisville Captures Third National Championship
Cards Cap Off Remarkable Season as 2013 NCAA National Champions
By Randy Whetstone Jr.
Game Date: April 8, 2013 Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Score: Louisville 82, Michigan 76
On a court filled with confetti, Gorgui Dieng was living an unfathomed dream: "To win the national championship, I never dreamed about this. I don't have any words for this. I just tried to do my job. I feel I did it tonight. Everyone was involved; that's what makes us a good basketball team."
Dieng's brother in the frontcourt, Chane Behanan, said: "I never knew it would feel like this. It feels like we are on the top of the world. Me and my brothers here, this is why we put in work all during the summer. Like coach told us, leave everything out on the court. Don't worry about making mistakes; take your chances — chances make champions."
In a championship game played in front of a record of 74,326 fans the University of Louisville men's basketball team won its first National Championship in 27 years, defeating the Michigan Wolverines 82-76.
The team has been characterized with unity, toughness and heart. After reaching the Final Four last season and falling short to Kentucky, Louisville bounced back with its eye on the prize. They started the season as preseason No. 2, and the team fought — ending the postseason No. 1. This is Louisville's first national championship since 1986. Outstanding Player of the Final Four Luke Hancock said, "It doesn't get better than this, it's unbelievable. It does not get better than this."
The first half was a Michael "Spike" Albrecht and Luke Hancock three-point shootout. Michigan was up by as many as 12 points. After the national player of the year Trey Burke went to the bench due to foul trouble, the freshman for the Wolverines stepped up. Albrecht hit four of the team's six three-point shots. He scored 17 of the team's 38 first-half points.
The Cards were in desperate need of a spurt on offense. Down 12 points in the first half, it was Hancock again for the Cardinals making his presence known. He scored 14 points in a 2:33 span. He hit four straight three-point shots, and Montrezl Harrell topped it off for the Cards after receiving the alley-oop slam from Peyton Siva to give Louisville its first lead of the game 37-36. In 13 minutes, Hancock went perfect from the field, 4-for-4 and scored a team high 16 points. Michigan led at the half 38-37.
In the second half, Trey Burke came out as the avenger after sitting most of the first half. He scored 17 points in the half and led his team the entire way. He showed his NBA potential when he hit a long-range bomb to cut into the Cards lead 54-52 with 12:07 to go. But the Cards kept the pressure on.
Siva had a huge second half, scoring 14 points, including an alley-oop slam assisted by Hancock which made the score 67-72 at the 6:27 mark. Behanan elevated to new heights in the second half. He took advantage on the offensive boards and ended the game with 15 points and 12 rebounds. Louisville turned the contest into a two-possession game, and Michigan could not overcome the deficit. Both teams had incredible offenses and the magnitude in which they played will go down as one the greatest college basketball championships ever to be played.
Hancock scored the most points by a bench player in a championship game in 49 years. He finished the game with 22 points going a perfect 5-for-5 from three-point land and was named Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four and was thrilled about playing in front of his father.
"I'm so excited for this team to be in this situation," Hancock said. "It's been a long road. There's no way to describe how I feel that my dad was here. It's hard to put into words. I'm so excited that he was here. It just means a lot. Just blessed to be in this situation. I'm just so happy for our team. I'm happy that multiple guys got to contribute on this great run. Everybody from Tim Henderson on. It's just great for our team. I'm so happy for these guys."
Wayne Blackshear loved every second of being champion. "This is a great feeling," he said. "You know when that buzzer sounded and we knew we had it sealed, and we knew we was the champion, it was the best feeling in my life."
Russ Smith spoke about Coach Pitino's halftime speech. "He said, you know we back in it. We down one, so we got a game now, let's go out there and finish the game. Let's go out and win, we got 20 minutes to be national champion."
The Cardinals were able to win the championship despite losing guard Kevin Ware to a gruesome leg injury during Louisville's Elite Eight win over Duke. "It is not about me," Ware said. "I am not that type of guy. Our team came out here and beat a great Michigan team. These are my brothers. They got the job done and I am so proud of them."
During the cutting of the nets, the rim was lowered for Ware to cut the last piece of the net. It was an emotional time in Card Nation. "It's been such a rollercoaster of emotions," Ware said. "I've been around when guys blow out their ACLs, but I've never seen such affection and spontaneous emotion. I look back on it and say, that was really, really special. I was glad to be part of this team."
Senior Peyton Siva has left his stamp in the Louisville Cardinal history books. "Well, I just got to thank God for blessing me with this opportunity," Siva said. "Winning this game, the whole game."
When asked about his legacy he shared, Siva responded: "My job was to continue to try to lead. That's always been my job as a point guard. Coach Pitino gave me an opportunity to run this team, and that's what I have always been trying to do. My legacy that I want to leave is to keep God first over everything, and put your teammates above all. You just got to continue to go out there and play for your team and play for the name on the front not on the back."
In his 28th collegiate season coaching and 12th with Louisville, Coach Rick Pitino is the first coach to take three different schools to Final Fours, and he became the first coach in college basketball to win two national championships at two different schools — Kentucky in 1996 and Louisville in 2013. Earlier on Monday, it was announced that Pitino will be part of the 2013 class of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
Pitino improved his NCAA Tournament record to 48-16. As the higher seed, his teams are 39-6. "You know, a lot of times when you get to the Final Four, you get to the championship, the game's not always great, not always pretty," Pitino said. "This was a great college basketball game. It's just, for us, been an incredible run with just the most wonderful young men I had the pleasure to be around. So proud of them."
Louisville finished the season with a 35-5 record and won its last 16 games, not losing in exactly two months. Since the five-overtime thriller at Notre Dame Feb. 9, the Cardinals played at another level. Their 35 wins are the most in the school's legacy. They are one of eight schools with three or more national championships, in company with UCLA, Kentucky, Indiana, North Carolina, Connecticut, Duke and Kansas. In the final season of the Big East, Louisville earned a share of the regular season championship, made a dramatic comeback versus Syracuse to win the Big East tournament and seized the ultimate reign as the 2013 NCAA National Champions.CHAPTER 2
Luke Hancock Brings the Threes
By Sammie Hill
The first half of the National Championship appeared bleak for Louisville until Luke Hancock stepped in and gave an inspired performance. The Virginia native helped Louisville secure an 82-76 victory over Michigan and was named the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player.
Hancock remained solid on Monday night when the rest of the team seemed a step behind the Wolverines. Determined to keep Louisville from falling behind in the first half, Hancock scored 14 points in two and a half minutes. Sinking three-pointer after three-pointer, Hancock kept the Cardinals in the game and provided the team — and the Louisville crowd — with much needed momentum.
"We needed a rally, and we've been doing it for a couple of games straight, being down," Hancock said. "We just had to wait and make our run."
Driven by the personal motto to "play hard and have fun," the junior forward has made an impact since arriving at Louisville last year. The 6-foot-6, 200 pound player transferred to U of L from George Mason University last season. Hancock's transfer status forced him to sit out the 2011-12 season. Nevertheless, Hancock earned the title of co-captain this year due to his leadership abilities on and off the court. He clearly displayed this leadership Monday night.
"I just thought we needed something," Hancock said. "I tried to do whatever I could to help the team. I usually take a back seat to Russ and Peyton, which I'm fine with since they are such great players. I just hit a few shots."
Although Hancock recognized the significance of Monday's game, he tried to maintain a steady mindset.
"In the game, you just try to treat it like any other game," Hancock said. "Just try to go out there and play. If you're open, shoot it. If you're not, drive it and pass it to another guy."
With 22 points, Hancock made all five of these three-point attempts Monday night and led the Cardinals to their first NCAA victory since 1986. With leading scorer Russ Smith struggling, Hancock stepped up to keep Louisville in the game.
"As soon as we started playing Luke Hancock more, our halfcourt offense evolved into something that was very special. Luke is a play maker along with Peyton," said Coach Rick Pitino.
"Coach Pitino made this feel like home. I'm so excited for our team to be in this situation and finally be here," said Hancock.
Sunday Pitino added, "His father getting to that game, being there, was awesome."
"There's no way to describe how it feels that my dad was here," said Hancock.
As senior guard Peyton Siva and sophomore forward Chane Behanan began to contribute, Louisville gained the advantage and clung to victory as Hancock's three-pointer with 3:27 left put Louisville up double digits for the first time all game. The Cardinals were able to hold onto victory.
"It doesn't get any better than this," Hancock said after the game.
Injured guard Kevin Ware mirrored Hancock's excitement.
"These are my brothers," Ware said. "They got the job done. I'm so proud of them, so proud of them."CHAPTER 3
NCAA Tournament Semifinal vs. Wichita State
Cardinals Oust Scrappy Shockers with Late Rally
Louisville Advances to Meet Michigan for NCAA Title
By Randy Whetstone Jr.
Game Date: April 6, 2013 Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Score: Louisville 72, Wichita State 68
Louisville advanced to the NCAA Championship Game to compete for its third national championship, after coming from behind to beat the feisty Wichita State Shockers, 72-68.
The Cards have won 15 in a row and compiled a 34-5 record — the most wins in team history. Michigan defeated Louisville's Big East foe Syracuse, 61-56, in the other semifinal contest to set up the title game — Louisville's first since winning it all in 1986.
After the tense win, forward Chane Behanan said: "Having not been in a national championship [since] I don't know when, before I was born, and having the most wins in Louisville history, that's big, too. I'm glad to be a part of this tradition; it's just an honor and a blessing."
Luke Hancock came off the bench in the first half but started the second half and led a late rally for the tournament's No. 1 overall seed, scoring 14 of his 20 points in the second half. Hancock hit a clutch three-point shot, which gave Louisville a five-point lead, 65-60, with 2:06 remaining in the ballgame.
That provided enough cushion for the Cards as they nursed a small lead, and a two-possession game. Free throws by Russ Smith and Hancock sealed the win for Louisville 72-68 placing them in position to win a national championship.
As a whole, Louisville didn't play with the dominant demeanor everyone has been accustomed to. Many starters struggled and Coach Rick Pitino gave credit to Wichita State.
"Four of our starters had their worst night of the season," Pitino said. "We had to win this game with our second unit of Stephen Van Treese, a walk-on; Tim Henderson; one of the best six men in all of basketball, Luke Hancock; and Montrezl Harrell. There's a reason our starters played poorly: it's because Wichita State is that good. So we're really happy to play in the final game."
Louisville fans tried to rally the team and especially to pull for the injured Kevin Ware, holding "Win for Ware" signs. Ware was present with his teammates physically on the sideline, and present with the team spiritually on the court. In his physical absence on the court, Hancock picked up the slack. Senior guard Peyton Siva had a poor shooting night, going 1-for-9 from the field, 0-for-5 from three point land, was encouraged by the efforts of his teammate.
"Luke is an excellent player and an excellent person," Siva said of the co-captain. "He really showed his leadership out there tonight. He showed his leadership when Kevin got injured. He's just an all-around great player and person. Tonight, he showed the world what he is capable of doing."
The Cardinals found themselves in unfamiliar territory when they were down 12 in the second half. Russ Smith led the team with 21 points and explained his emotions when his team was so far behind.
"I feel like when it went to 12, I looked at it and the time kept going down and we kept fouling," Smith said. "I was actually waiting for our run, and it happened; Luke exploded, then Chane exploded. It kept going and going, and obviously I knew it wasn't my night, but I was so happy to see everyone else contributing, it was so special."
One unlikely contributor was walk-on guard Tim Henderson. Henderson gave oxygen for Louisville when everyone in red was gasping for air. Behanan, who finished with 10 points and nine rebounds, commended his teammate for hitting two three-pointers to cut the lead to six.
"He does that in practice all the time, and I'm just happy it converted when it counted, Behanan said. "He gave us two big three's down in the clutch. He contributed with Luke, myself, and Russ and I'm just happy we pulled it out."
Siva, in assessing his performance with seven points, said, "It was just one of those nights." After exalting his teammates, Siva said, "I just wanted to win. That's all that mattered to me, whether my shot was falling or not, as long as we won I was fine with how everything panned out."
Smith was pleased with the effort as Louisville dug in deep to rally to victory. "We just played super hard," Smith said. "Nobody wanted to go home. Wichita State did a great job of hanging with us, sticking with their game. We just fought really hard."
Coach Pitino will be coaching for his second National Championship. His win percentage in tournament play is 74 percent, ranking him fifth among active coaches, and 13th all-time. He has led Louisville to three final fours, with 2013 marking his first attempt at finishing the season on top. Louisville will have one day to prepare for the grand finale versus the Michigan Wolverines. The Wolverines and Cardinals boast the two best backcourts in the nation; the Wolverines' effort is led by Trey Burke, who was recently named national player of the year.
Excerpted from Unbreakable by Triumph Books. Copyright © 2013 The Louisville Cardinal. Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books.
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