Final Four Notebook

Louisville crowned champions

The No. 1 Cardinals upended the No. 4 Wolverines in Atlanta last night, 82-76. Louisville not only earned the win for coach Rick Pitino, who won his first title since 1996 at Kentucky, but also for teammate Kevin Ware, whose grisly leg injury has been a national storyline over the past week.

Luke Hancock scored 22 points for Louisville, and the Wolverines were led by Trey Burke’s 24. Burke put forth an impressive outing after his less-than-stellar seven point game Saturday against Syracuse.

Ahead 33-21 with 3:33 to go in the first half, Michigan took its eyes off the hot hand of Luke Hancock, who scored 14 points in the next 2:34 to help the Cardinals cut the halftime deficit to one point. Michigan freshman Spike Albrecht caused a plethora of issues for Louisville in the first half, scoring 17 points on 4-for-4 from beyond the arc before cooling off in the closing minutes.

Louisville went on a 12-3 run following the first media timeout of the second half to take a 54-49 lead. Guard Peyton Siva scored the Cardinals’ next six points to put Louisville up 60-56 with 10 minutes left. Michigan later creeped to within three points, but Siva made a pair of free throws to increase the lead to five, and later center Gorgui Dieng made back-to-back jump hooks to extend the lead to 73-65 with 4:08 left.

Louisville has been a spectacular transition team all season, and it showed once again last night. Of the 12 Michigan turnovers, nine of them resulted in steals which in turn led to several fast break scoring chances for the Cards.

Louisville escapes with victory

The Cardinals needed every bit of its energy and determination to knock off No. 9 Wichita State Saturday, 72-68. Louisville was held scoreless for the first 5:06 of the game and later fell behind 47-35 with 13 minutes to go. The deficit was cut to 47-41 when Tim Henderson nailed back-to-back threes, and soon after, Chane Behanan scored six of the team’s next eight points to slice it to 55-53. Luke Hancock netted a critical 3-pointer to push Louisville ahead 56-55 with 6:31 to go, and Hancock made another clutch three with two minutes to go to give the Cards a 65-60 edge.

Russ Smith paced Louisville with 21 points, and Hancock put in a 20-point effort. Cleanthony Early led the Shockers with 24 points and 10 rebounds. Louisville won despite shooting a shoddy 65.5 percent from the foul line and zero points from star center Gorgui Dieng. The effort, however, was just enough to send Rick Pitino to his first national championship game as Louisville’s coach.

Michigan sidesteps Syracuse

For the first time in 20 years, Michigan advanced to the national title game with a tight 61-56 win over red-hot Syracuse Saturday. The Wolverines held a 35-26 advantage at halftime and went ahead 45-35 with 13:36 remaining, but Michigan would be held without a point for the next four minutes as Syracuse closed the gap to 45-41. The closest the Orange would get the rest of the way would be within one at 57-56 when James Southerland made a 3-pointer in the final minute.

Consensus national player of the year Trey Burke was limited to seven points in 38 minutes of action, but he received much needed help from his other starters. Tim Hardaway Jr., Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary combined for 33 points and 24 of the team’s 36 rebounds to back up the struggling Burke. Michigan shot 8-for-24 from long distance and kept Syracuse to just 3-for-14. It is still unclear if this was Orange coach Jim Boeheim’s final game at the helm of Syracuse, but if he does retire he will go with one of the most impressive coach’s resumes in the game’s history; taking Syracuse to the postseason in 33 of his 34 years as coach.

Player of the week

Luke Hancock — Junior — Forward — Louisville

Without Hancock’s sweet shooting touch, the Cardinals may not have won the championship. Named the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four, he scored 20 points on 3-for-5 3-point shooting against Wichita State and had 22 points on 5-for-5 shooting from deep against Michigan. Hancock only averaged 7.7 points per game in the regular season in his first year at Louisville since transferring from George Mason.