Louisville beats Duke, 85-63, to reach Final Four
Louisville forward Montrezl Harrell (24) blocks a shot by Duke forward Mason Plumlee during the first half of the Midwest Regional final in the NCAA college basketball tournament, Sunday, March 31, 2013, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Louisville guard Peyton Siva (3) goes up with a shot against Duke guard Quinn Cook (2) during the first half of the Midwest Regional final in the NCAA college basketball tournament, Sunday, March 31, 2013, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Louisville players huddle as guard Kevin Ware is treated for an injury during the first half of the Midwest Regional final against Duke in the NCAA college basketball tournament, Sunday, March 31, 2013, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Duke forward Mason Plumlee (5) tries to pass the ball against Louisville forward Chane Behanan (21) and center Gorgui Dieng (10) during the first half of the Midwest Regional final in the NCAA college basketball tournament, Sunday, March 31, 2013, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Michigan's Trey Burke (3) passes the ball to Tim Hardaway Jr. (10) as Casey Prather (24) defends during the second half of a regional final game in the NCAA college basketball tournament, Sunday, March 31, 2013, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Michigan's Trey Burke (3) grabs a rebound as Florida's Casey Prather (24) defends during the second half of a regional final game in the NCAA college basketball tournament, Sunday, March 31, 2013, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Michigan head coach John Beilein reacts after cutting down the net after a regional final game against Florida in the NCAA college basketball tournament, Sunday, March 31, 2013, in Arlington, Texas. Michigan won 79-59 to advance to the Final Four. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Michigan's Nik Stauskas (11) celebrates his three-point basket as Mitch McGary (4) joins in against Florida during the second half of a regional final game in the NCAA college basketball tournament, Sunday, March 31, 2013, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
With tears in their eyes and Kevin Ware in their hearts, there was no way Louisville was losing this game.
Russ Smith scored 23, Gorgui Dieng had 14 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks, and top-seeded Louisville put aside the shock from Ware’s gruesome leg injury to earn a second straight trip to the Final Four with an 85-63 victory yesterday over Duke.
As the final seconds ticked down, Chane Behanan put Ware’s jersey on and stood at the end of the Louisville bench, screaming. Cardinals fans chanted “Kevin Ware! Kevin Ware!”
“We won this for him,” Coach Rick Pitino said. “We were all choked up with emotion for him. We’ll get him back to normal. We’ve got great doctors, great trainers.”
The Final Four is in Ware’s hometown of Atlanta, just adding to the emotion for the victorious Cardinals.
“We talked about it every timeout, ‘Get Kevin home,’ ” Pitino said.
This was the first time Pitino and Mike Krzyzewski had met in the regional finals since that 1992 classic that ended with Christian Laettner’s improbable buzzer-beater, a game now considered one of the best in NCAA tournament history.
This game will be remembered, too, but for a very different – and much more somber – reason.
With 6:33 left in the first half, Ware, who has played a key role in Louisville’s 14-game winning streak, jumped to try to block Tyler Thornton’s 3-point shot. When he landed, his right leg snapped midway between his ankle and knee, the bone skewing almost at a right angle. Ware dropped to the floor right in front of the Louisville bench and, almost in unison, his teammates turned away in horror. Thornton grimaced, putting his hand to his mouth as he turned around.
Louisville forward Wayne Blackshear fell to the floor and Behanan looked as if he was going to be sick on the court, kneeling on his hands and feet. Luke Hancock patted Ware’s chest as doctors worked on the sophomore and Smith walked away, pulling his jersey over his eyes.
Pitino had tears in his eyes as he tried to console his players. Dieng draped an arm around the shoulders of Smith, who repeatedly wiped at his eyes and shook his head. The Cardinals (33-5) gathered at halfcourt to try to regroup before Pitino called them over to the sideline, saying Ware wanted to talk to them before he left.
“Basically, the bone popped out of the skin. It broke in two spots,” Pitino said. “Remember the bone is six inches out of his leg, and all he’s yelling is, ‘Win the game, win the game.’ I’ve never seen anything like that.”
News of the injury dominated social media. Joe Theismann, whose NFL career ended with a horrific broken leg, said on Twitter, “Watching Duke/ Louisville my heart goes out to Kevin Ware.”
Fans chanted “Kevin! Kevin” as Ware was loaded onto the stretcher, and Pitino wiped away tears again as Ware was wheeled off the court.
The Cardinals struggled to put the horrific injury behind them, missing four of their next five shots along with two free throws after play resumed. They regrouped after a timeout, with Smith’s finger roll sparking a 12-6 run to finish the half that gave them a 35-32 lead.
Smith picked up where he left off at the start of the second half, making all three free throws after being fouled on a 3-point attempt to give Louisville a 38-32 lead, its largest of the game to that point.
But just as he did against Michigan State, Duke star Seth Curry got hot after halftime, making two 3s in the first three minutes. Mason Plumlee dunked to tie the game at 42.
That, however, was all Louisville needed.
Clawing for every rebound, diving on the floor for loose balls and cranking the intensity up even higher on their ferocious defense, the Cardinals were not going to lose. And everyone, Duke included, knew it.
Smith, the most outstanding player of the Midwest Region, made a layup. Peyton Siva had a nice jumper at the top of the key, and then followed with a layup. Just like that, the Cardinals were off on a 20-4 run that sealed the victory.
Siva had 16 points and Luke Hancock added 10 for the Cardinals, who will play Wichita State in the national semifinals on Saturday.
Plumlee finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Curry added 12, all in the second half.
The Blue Devils (30-6) needed Curry to come up big as he did against Michigan State if they were going to have any chance against the Cardinals. But Curry didn’t take a shot until almost nine minutes into the game, and missed each of his three shots in the first half.
Michigan 79, Florida 59
Trey Burke and Michigan had the perfect response for everyone who said they were too young or not tough enough to make it all the way to Atlanta.
The championship trophy for the South Region is headed back to Ann Arbor, while another fabulous group of young Wolverines is going to the Final Four.
Led by Burke and sharp-shooting guard Nik Stauskas, one of three freshmen starters, Michigan controlled Florida from start to finish.
“It means the world – 20 years has passed and we haven’t been on that stage yet,” said Tim Hardaway Jr., the junior elder statesman in the starting lineup.
The last time Michigan made it this far was the Fab Five era of the early 1990s, what until now had been considered the program’s glory years.
Might be time to start rethinking that.
Once they got ahead yesterday, the Wolverines (30-7) maintained a double-digit lead against the experienced Gators (29-8), who won the regular-season title in the Southeastern Conference, but lost in a regional final for the third straight year.
“We’ve almost become numb to it now. Been here before,” Gators junior center Patric Young said. “I just really wish we were out there cutting the nets down.”
Stauskas scored 22 points while making all six of his 3-pointers. Burke, the South Region’s most outstanding player, scored 15 points even while dealing with some spasms in his upper back, and 6-foot-10 freshman Mitch McGary had 11 points and nine rebounds.
When the game ended, Burke and several of his teammates went to the opposite side of the court toward Michigan fans behind press row with fingers raised. Fans were chanting, “It’s great to be a Michigan Wolverine!”
And great to be young.
“Seeing it all come together, I don’t know what to say,” sixth-year Wolverines Coach John Beilein said. “I’m a little bit speechless.”
Michigan hadn’t reached the Final Four since consecutive finals appearances in 1992 and 1993, the freshman and sophomore seasons of the Fab Five – Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Ray Jackson and Jimmy King.
Webber was gone before that team’s 1994 regional final loss to Arkansas played in the now-demolished Reunion Arena in Dallas, with Rose and Howard following him to the NBA after that.
With four wins in this NCAA tourney, the Wolverines already have more tournament victories than their total (three) from the end of the Fab Five era to this season. They won a game in 1998, and then didn’t even make the field again until 2009.
Despite being the only team to make regional finals each of the last three seasons, the Gators haven’t been to the Final Four since winning consecutive national titles in 2006 and 2007 for Coach Billy Donovan.
Kenny Boynton and Erik Murphy, the four-year seniors who came in not long after those titles, will leave without one of their own. They were part of the only Gators class to win consecutive outright SEC regular-season championships, but came up short in the biggest games.
Florida is the first team to make it to three consecutive regional finals without winning at least one of them, according to STATS LLC. Wyoming lost in the round of eight from 1947-49, but that stretch ended two years before the NCAA tournament expanded to more than eight teams.
“I feel more upset for Boynton, (Mike) Rosario and Murphy, who don’t get a chance and have come so close,” Donovan said. “This one, we didn’t play well enough or deserve to win.”
Boynton and Will Yeguete had 13 points apiece for the Gators.