Louisville comes back to beat Michigan for NCAA men's title
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ATLANTA -- Louisville coach Rick Pitino began the day with the formal announcement of his induction to the Hall of Fame and ended it by carving out a place in basketball history as the first coach to win NCAA titles with two different schools.
The top-seeded Cardinals trailed by 12 points in the first half, but Luke Hancock came off the bench to score 14 of his 22 points in a game-turning 16-3 run before halftime as the Cardinals earned an 82-76 win over Michigan Monday night at the Georgia Dome. Pitino's first title came in 1996 with Kentucky, and he picked up the second on his seventh trip to the Final Four.
Louisville (35-5) got an outstanding performance from point guard Peyton Siva, who had 14 of his 18 points in the second half and added six rebounds and five assists. Forward Chane Behanan had 15 points and 12 rebounds.
"We beat a great basketball team," Pitino said. Turning to his own players, he added, "These are the toughest guys I've ever coached."
They had to be against an explosive Michigan team. By halftime, it certainly appeared a topsy-turvy season and an NCAA Tournament full of upset surprises had, in the end, identified the two best teams.
No. 1 overall seed Louisville, which had won 18 of its previous 19 games, again fell behind early by a 33-21 margin.
Burke was on the bench with two fouls, but 5-11 freshman speedster Albrecht was 4-for-4 from three-point range and totaled a career-high 17 points in the first half as the Wolverines built that 12-point cushion.
The Cardinals weren't shooting very well, especially leading scorer Russ Smith, who had only four first-half points and shot 1-for-9. He finished with nine points but shot 3-for-16.
So Hancock took matters into his own hands, much as he did in Louisville's comeback from a 12-point second-half deficit in its semifinal win over Wichita State. He knocked down four straight threes from the right wing of the arc to cut the deficit to 36-35.
Hancock has been drawing inspiration from his 70-year-old father, Bill, who was courtside despite an undisclosed serious ailment. "I just thought we needed something, and I hit a few jumpers in a row," Hancock said. "I had four straight solid looks. Once you hit three in a row, you feel like they'll go in from anywhere."
The Cardinals took a brief one-point lead before Michigan got to the locker room with a 38-37 edge. Stopped by a sideline TV reporter on his way to the locker room, Michigan coach John Beilein enthused, "This could be one of the best games ever."
As the game entered the final minutes, it became a duel between the point guards, Siva and Burke. Siva scored eight of 13 Louisville points in one stretch as the Cardinals built a 67-62 lead. The last basket in that span was an alley-oop dunk by Siva. Burke instantly matched Siva with an alley-oop flourish of his own at the other end, bringing the crowd of 74,326, a record for an NCAA championship game, to a roar.
But Louisville put the game away with a 9-1 burst, taking its biggest lead at 76-66 when Hancock buried his fifth three-pointer in as many attempts and gave a victory fist pump.
"My dad always tells me to pull the trigger," Hancock said with a smile. "I'm so happy I could do this for him. After the game, I said to him, 'I pulled the trigger, right?' He said, 'Yeah, you did.' "