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Louisville reserves escape Wichita State
Posted By HOOPSWORLD On April 6, 2013 @ 9:00 pm In Wirenews | Comments Disabled
by Eric Prisbell, USA TODAY Sports
ATLANTA — After dominating much of its competition in four NCAA tournament games, Louisville, the top overall seed in the field, got its stiffest test from an unlikely opponent in tonight’s national semifinals.
Though the Cardinals clearly did not play at their best against ninth-seeded Wichita State, they got key contributions from two reserves – Luke Hancock and walk-on Tim Henderson – to rally from an 12-point second-half deficit and hold off the Shockers, 72-68, at the Georgia Dome.
Making its second consecutive appearance in the Final Four, Louisville advanced to Monday’s national title game to play the winner of the Syracuse-Michigan semifinal.
Delivering injured guard Kevin Ware, who watched the game from the bench, a national championship has been a rallying cry for Louisville and its fans since the Atlanta native broke his leg in the Elite Eight against Duke. But the game against the Shockers turned out to be more competitive than most college basketball fans expected.
Against the Shockers, a physical and veteran team that had already knocked off Gonzaga and Ohio State, the Cardinals battled adversity throughout. Only when Hancock pumped his fist after a three-pointer with two minutes to play – which gave the Cardinals a five-point advantage – did they appear to have any discernable advantage.
Wichita State still had a chance in the final seconds — trailing by three points — but Hancock locked up Ron Baker, and officials gave the ball to Louisville because of the possession arrow.
Louisville, which won its 15th consecutive game, authored an uneven performance from the start.
Russ Smith, who was an 80 % free-throw shooter in his three-year college career, made just 1 of his first 6 free throw attempts. But as shaky as Smith looked offensively, his four fellow starters struggled even more.
Wichita State pushed the lead to 11 points a little more than five minutes into the second half, when a steal by point guard Malcolm Armstead led to a layup in transition for Tekele Cotton.
Without Ware, Coach Rick Pitino called upon walk-on Henderson to provide some depth in the backcourt. All Henderson did was sink back-to-back three-pointers to slice the … [For more on Louisville rallies behind reserves to escape Wichita State, click here.]
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