SYRACUSE - Wayne Blackshear was not ready to give up the most productive career in Louisville history without a fight. The senior was well aware of the concept of leaving everything on the court, and he knows that the idea sometimes extends to the locker room, too.
Blackshear became extremely ill at halftime of his team's East Regional final against Michigan State Sunday. "He was upchucking like I've not seen a person," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said.
Blackshear later had to leave the game temporarily with a nosebleed that was so bad he could not stand up to take a free throw.
Still, he made it to the end of a 76-70 overtime loss, shooting 12-for-12 from the foul line and finishing his career with a 28-point, 39-minute effort that closed out his four years in high style, if not good health.
"I was doing everything I could in my power," he said in the locker room afterward, still wearing his bloodstained uniform. "It's very emotional. I definitely wanted to get back to another Final Four and leave a legacy here. But I've been on some great teams. I've been to Final Fours, I've won a national championship. I've had a hell of a career here."
Blackshear explained that his asthma was acting up, so he used his inhaler a bit more than he should have. That caused havoc on his stomach. It just didn't stop him.
Nor did that bloody nose.
Louisville had an awful second half on offense, but Blackshear gave it life with 3:38 left by scoring on a drive and drawing a foul to halt the Spartans' momentum and cut their lead to 61-57. The problem was that he got knocked in the nose. Despite frenzied work by trainer Fred Hina -- formerly the trainer for the Mets -- Blackshear could not get the bleeding to stop.
Dillon Avare, a freshman walk-on from Lexington, Kentucky, got the assignment to take the free throw. "I saw Coach P kind of looking through the bench, he looked at me and said, 'You're in,' " Avare said. "Running to the scorer's table, I'd say I got pretty nervous."
Teammates Montrezl Harrell, Mangok Mathiang and Terry Rozier calmed him down. "They said, 'You've got this. It's like a regular practice free throw.' It's one I'll never forget," said Avare, who made it and was surprised to learn later that within minutes, his name was trending on Twitter.
Thirty-three seconds later, Avare was back on the bench, replaced by Blackshear, who went out on his terms.
Said Rozier, "He gives it his all no matter what. He has a lot of heart. He's just a good guy, always doing the right things."