Louisville Beats Michigan To Claim Third National Title
04/08/2013 11:13 PM
After 26 years of waiting, the University of Louisville basketball team again cut down the nets.
The first half lived up to the hype as a battle of the backcourts but not because of the much-heralded Trey Burke for Michigan or Louisville’s leaders Peyton Siva and Russ Smith.
No, it was the Spike Albrecht and Luke Hancock three-point show
And Michigan went into the locker room after watching a 12-point lead dissolve to 38-37.
Hancock scored 16 in the first half and almost lifted the Cards back in the game by himself. Louisville trailed 33-21 with 3:33 remaining. At that point, the team was one-for-two from behind the arc.
Hancock hit a trio of three pointers on consecutive possessions and added a fourth that pulled Louisville within a point, 36-35 with a minute to go.
Siva then stripped the ball from Albrecht and Siva shoveled it ahead to Montrezl Harrell for a dunk that whipped up the Louisville crowd. It gave the Cards their first lead of the night, 37-35 with less than 22 seconds left.
It was a compressed answer to what Michigan freshman guard Spike Albrecht did to the Cards for the previous twelve minutes.
After Burke committed two early fouls, Coach John Beilein sent in Albrecht, who took over as the Wolverines scoring and emotional leader. Albrecht connected with three from behind the arc in little over two minutes. With just under four minutes to go, Albrecht blew by Tim Henderson for a layup to put Michigan up 33-21, forcing Coach Rick Pitino to call a time out.
Albrecht leaped toward the Michigan bench pumping his fist sending the Michigan fans into a frenzy.
He had 17 points in the first half in relief of Burke, who only played six minutes.
Meanwhile, both Siva and Smith seemed to struggle at times to get the ball past Michigan’s big men to Gorgui Dieng and Chane Behanan. Siva and Smith shot a combined 2-13 from the floor, including one missed three-pointer by each, and Michigan entered the break with a one-point lead, 38-37.
If Louisville was caught on their heels in the first half, though, Wayne Blackshear made sure the Cards started out on the right foot when he hit a three-pointer to open the second half and give UofL a one-point lead.
The Wolverines fought back though and after Mitch McGary’s layup gave them a four-point lead at 46-42, Rick Pitino called a timeout and challenged his team. In a matter of 1:31, the four-point deficit would turn into a one-point lead and the Cards would never trail again.
Senior point guard scored 11 of UofL’s 15 points during a six-minute stretch where the Wolverines made a push to comeback behind Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. Despite their offensive barrage, the lead actually widened thanks to Siva and the emergence of the physicality inside that has become their trademark in the tournament.
Chane Behanan, who would finish with 15 points and 12 rebounds, played like “a beast” as Charles Barkley put it afterward and center Gorgui Dieng, who notched 8 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists on the night, hit a pair of jumpers to keep the defense honest.
But it was George Mason Luke Hancock, whose 22 points would earn him Most Outstanding Player recognition, who killed a Michigan comeback attempt with a three-pointer – his fifth on five tries – with 3:27 remaining. From there, it became a game of free throws and the Cards walked away with an 82-76 win and the school’s national championship.
Afterward, Rick Pitino said that he planned to celebrate the title just like any other coach – with a tattoo. The UofL head coach said he promised his players he’d get a tattoo if the Cards won a title. On keeping his promise, Pitino said, “Hell yes. I’m getting a tattoo.”
Stay tuned to mycn2.com for updates from the locker room and be sure to watch cn|2 Sports tomorrow at 6:30pm and 10:30pm for a full recap on a historic night in Atlanta.
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