Mere words cannot even do last night’s Final Four game between Louisville and Wichita State justice. From the opening salvo, the Shockers seemed to be in complete control of Louisville. Wichita St came out and immediately started rebounding well, including following their own misses and getting offensive rebounds. They were hitting their threes, causing Louisville to turn it over, and added on with that, Louisville wasn’t hitting. Cards were down 8-0 early. They were in danger of letting it get out of hand quickly. But in true Louisville fashion, their resilience and quickness kicked in. In what would later become the story of this game, Louisville would go on a quick 9-0 run to take the lead. From that moment on, the first half ceased to be this time where one of the two teams dominated the other. It turned into a back-and-forth battle that was based around free throw shooting (since SO MANY fouls were called this game) and three point shooting. Three point shooting would later become such a factor in this game because Wichita State’s size and defense was too much for Louisville to drive inside and score with a big. Wichita State forced Louisville to hit perimeter shots, which they (eventually) did. The biggest story of the first half however, was not that Louisville was down 26-25 to Wichita State, but that Russ Smith was basically an offensive non-factor for the first fifteen minutes. He, Siva, and Dieng couldn’t do anything offensively, leaving the scoring burden on the backs of Hancock and Harrell. Louisville knew something had to change. Boy did it change. From out of the gate, Wichita State seemed to just be there. They began to capitalize on Louisville fouls and were hitting just about every shot they threw up. It was one of the most impressive (and emotionally destructive for Cardinals fans) things I’ve ever seen. At the point when Cleanthony Early made the three to put the Shockers up by 12 at 47-35, I was laying in the floor with my face in a pillow, screaming. I couldn’t believe what was unfolding. The Louisville Cardinals, a team I’ve loved since birth, a team whose year was supposed to be this one, was in danger of losing to a 9 seed in the Final Four. It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. This team was too special to go out in this fashion. It just couldn’t be.
It wasn’t meant to be that way. It seemed as if magically, the hand of God came down in favor of the Cardinals. That absolute power and skill manifested itself in three men who took charge of the game. Luke Hancock, Stephan Van Treese, and Tim Henderson. It all started at the 13:01 mark. Luke Hancock feeds Henderson the ball in the corner, and he nails a three to quickly cut the lead to 9. Less than a minute later, the exact same thing happened, except Russ fed him the ball. The entire Georgia Dome was erupting. Louisville native/walk-on Tim Henderson, who had made only FOUR threes all year and had only received playing time because of Kevin Ware’s injury, had just hit back-to-back threes to cut the lead in half. Disbelief and joy spread quickly over Cardnation, who once again were believing in the Comeback Cards. Propelled by those threes and the defensive presence of Van Treese, who made his mark as a big man that is willing to get banged up on the inside. He was fearless. But perhaps the most impressive of all was one of Louisville’s forwards, Luke Hancock. Hancock is a player that throughout the year took a lot of grief from Cards fans who said he can’t shoot and that he’s a defensive liability. Boy were they wrong. Hancock drove to the hoop and hit his threes and free throws. Without Hancock, the Cards would be sitting in the Ville right now watching WSU vs Michigan in the National Championship game. He showed why he is a team captain. Louisville was thankfully also able to hit free throws to ice the game, something surprising due to how Louisville was struggling to hit them throughout the length of the game. Louisville hit them and was able to pull off another amazing comeback to win 72-68.
- Gregg Marshall is one of the most classy and underrated coaches I’ve seen. More schools should be pursuing him. I realize youth is something a lot of schools want, but you’ve gotta recognize that talent.
- The call be talked about at the end of the game is the jump ball to give Louisville possession back after Ron Baker rebounded the Luke Hancock missed free throw. Many are saying it’s a terrible call. I dunno. You guys watch the video of it on our hub and comment here with your opinions.
- Karl Hess is literally the worst referee ever.