Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Louisville tops Michigan for NCAA title

ATLANTA — Rick Pitino capped the greatest week of his life with the prize he wanted most.

Luke Hancock had another huge game off the bench with 22 points, and Pitino became the first coach to win national titles at two schools when relentless Louisville rallied from another 12-point deficit to beat Michigan 82-76 in the NCAA championship game Monday night.

This title came on the same day Pitino was announced as a member of the latest Hall of Fame class, a couple of days after his horse won a big race on the way to the Kentucky Derby, and a few more days after his son got the head coaching job at Minnesota.

This was the best feeling of all. The Cardinals (35-5) lived up to their billing as the top overall seed in the tournament, though they sure had to work for it.

Louisville trailed Wichita State by 12 in the second half of the national semifinals, before rallying for a 72-68 victory. This time, they fell behind by 12 in the first half, though a stunning spurt at the end of the period wiped out the entire deficit.

"I had the 13 toughest guys I've ever coached," said Pitino, who plans to follow through on a promise he made to his players if they won the title — by getting a tattoo.

No one was tougher than Hancock, named the most outstanding player. He came off the bench to hit four straight 3-pointers after Michigan got a boost from an even more unlikely player.

Freshman Spike Albrecht made four straight from beyond the arc, too, blowing by his career high before the break with 17 points. Coming in, Albrecht was averaging 1.8 points a game and had not scored more than seven all season.

While Albrecht didn't do much in the second half (zero points), Hancock finished what he started for Louisville. He buried another 3 from the corner with 3:20 remaining to give the Cardinals their biggest lead, 76-66. Michigan wouldn't go away, but Hancock wrapped it up by making two free throws with 29 seconds left.

While Pitino shrugged off any attempt to make this about him, there was no doubt the Cardinals wanted to win a national title for someone else — injured guard Kevin Ware.

Watching again from his seat at the end of the bench, his injured right leg propped up on a chair, Ware smiled and slapped hands with teammates as they celebrated in the closing seconds, the victory just 30 miles from where he played his high school ball.

Any pain from that gruesome injury in the regional final, when he landed awkwardly, snapped his leg and was left writhing on the floor with the bone sticking through the skin, was long gone as he hobbled gingerly onto the court with the aid of crutches, backing in a sea of confetti and streamers.

The basket was lowered so the injured player could cut the net.

"These are my brothers," Ware said. "They got the job done. I'm so proud of them, so proud of them."

Peyton Siva added 18 points for the Cardinals, who closed the season on a 16-game winning streak, and Chane Behanan chipped in with 15 points and 12 rebounds as Louisville slowly but surely closed out the Wolverines (31-8).

Michigan was in the title game for the first time since the Fab Five lost the second of two straight championship games in 1993. Players from that team, including Chris Webber, cheered on the latest group of young stars.

But, like the Fab Five, national player of the year Trey Burke and a squad with three freshman starters came up short in the last game of the season.

Still, it was quite a run for a fourth-seeded team that knocked off No. 1-seeded Kansas with the greatest comeback of the tournament, rallying from 14 points down in the second half to beat the Jayhawks in the Sweet 16.

But they came up against a No. 1 seed and the ultimate comeback team in the final.

"I've had a lot of really good teams over the years, and some emotional locker rooms, and that was the most emotional we've ever had," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "The team unity we had, the sacrifice we had from five seniors who did not get to play very much, to these young guys buying into the team concept.

"We feel bad about it."

Louisville had yet another stunning rally in the Big East championship game — down by 16 in the second half, it won by 17 over Syracuse — and will take this championship with them to the new American Athletic Conference. That league, which includes USF and soon UCF, is what's left after the Big East split off.

The Big East is guaranteed both men's and women's Division I basketball titles, and Louisville can become only the second school to sweep both, joining Connecticut in 2004.

Louisville tops Michigan for NCAA title 04/08/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 9, 2013 12:47am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Video: Gordon Hayward's message to Celtics from hospital bed after gruesome injury

    Nba

    BOSTON — Gordon Hayward's face was etched in pain and shock.

    Gordon Hayward of the Boston Celtics sits on the floor after being injured while playing the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on October 17, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. [Gregory Shamus | Getty Images]
  2. Rick and Tom podcast: Where does Winston rank among top QBs?

    Blogs

    Where does Bucs QB Jameis Winston rank among current NFL QBs this year? The result might shock you. Rick Stroud and Tom Jones break down a new poll by Sports Illustrated in their latest podcast.

    Where does Jameis Winston rank among the NFL's top quarterbacks?
  3. Epilogue: USF's Mike Radomski made thank-yous a way of life

    College

    TAMPA — He was a sucker for baseball and benevolence. Mike Radomski tracked every gesture, regardless of how noble or benign, as meticulously as pitch counts in his volumes of scorebooks.

    Assistant director of communications Mike Radomski, who primarily served as the media liaison for men's basketball but also worked with several other Bulls sports, died shortly after 1 a.m. Oct. 12, 2017 in a car accident on Interstate 75 near his Wildwood home. He was 29. PHOTO PROVIDED.
  4. Cubs down Dodgers 3-2; force NLCS Game 5 Thursday

    Ml

    CHICAGO — Javier Baez snapped an 0-for-20 skid with two home runs, former Ray Wade Davis hung on for a six-out save and the Cubs avoided a sweep, holding off the Dodgers 3-2 Wednesday night in Game 4 of the NL Championship Series.

  5. Bucs' Vernon Hargreaves: 'I'm not making any plays'

    Bucs

    TAMPA — Eli Manning gathered his receivers together on the sideline during the Giants' Week 4 game against the Bucs and told them he planned to target the weakest link of the secondary all afternoon.

    Patriots receiver Chris Hogan gets position in front of Bucs cornerback Vernon Hargreaves for a 5-yard touchdown pass in New England’s win on Oct. 5.