ATLANTA – Luke Hancock scored 22 points to lead the Louisville Cardinals over the Michigan Wolverines 82-76 on Monday in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) men’s basketball final.
A Cardinals squad inspired by a gruesome broken leg suffered by reserve guard Kevin Ware in a quarter-final triumph completed their championship run in Ware’s hometown before a Georgia Dome crowd of nearly 75,000 spectators.
“It’s not about me,” Ware said. “These are my brothers. They got the job done. I’m so proud of them.”
Ware cut the net from the rim after the game, a celebratory tradition aided by lowering the backboard to allow for his broken leg.
Hancock, who matched a career high in scoring on the night, was named the game’s Most Outstanding Player.
He was part of a shorthanded bench because of the absence of Ware, but that was not enough to deny Louisville a third national crown after titles in 1980 and 1986.
Hancock scored 14 points in a three-minute span late in the first half to help Louisville trim a 12-point Michigan first-half lead to 38-37 at half-time.
“It was the heart of this team,” Hancock said. “We went into war right there. We just had to wait and make our run.”
Peyton Silva scored 14 of his 18 points in the second half while Chane Behanan added 15 points and 12 rebounds to spark the Cardinals and cap an epic day for Louisville coach Rick Pitino.
Pitino had been elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame on Monday morning and a few hours later, his players made him the first coach in NCAA history to coach two different schools to national titles.
The first title for Pitino came when he was guiding Louisville’s arch rivals, the University of Kentucky Wildcats, in 1996.
“We beat a great basketball team probably because I have the 13 toughest guys I have ever coached,” Pitino said.
“All throughout my life, I have had the greatest players. Players put coaches into the Hall of Fame.”
The Wolverines, whose only national title came in 1989, had an 8-2 run to close Louisville’s lead to 78-74 late in the second half but came no closer as Louisville improved to 3-0 all-time against Michigan by winning their first meeting since 1978.