Men's basketball: In a classic, a title for Louisville
Hancock helps lead rally from early deficit against Michigan
Luke Hancock gets the celebration started for Louisville with an embrace of Russ Smith after the win over Michigan.
ATLANTA — Rick Pitino capped the greatest week of his life with the prize he wanted most of all.
Luke Hancock produced another huge game off the bench, scoring 22 points, and Pitino became the first coach to win national titles at two schools last night when relentless Louisville rallied from another 12-point deficit to beat Michigan 82-76 in the NCAA championship game.
This title came on the same day Pitino was announced as a member of the latest Hall of Fame class, two days after his horse won a big race on the way to the Kentucky Derby, and a few more days after his son got the coaching job at Minnesota.
This was the best feeling of all. The Cardinals (35-5) lived up to their billing as the top overall seed in the tournament, though they had to work for it.
Louisville trailed Wichita State by 12 points in the second half on Saturday before rallying for a 72-68 victory. This time, they fell behind by 12 in the first half, though a stunning run got the deficit to one at halftime.
“I had the 13 toughest guys I’ve ever coached,” said Pitino, who plans to follow through on a promise he made to his players if they won the title — by getting a tattoo.
No one was tougher than Hancock, named the most outstanding player. He came off the bench to make four straight three-pointers after Michigan got a boost from an even more unlikely player. Freshman Spike Albrecht made four straight from beyond the arc, too, blowing by his career high before the break with 17 points.
While Albrecht didn’t do much in the second half, Hancock finished what he started for Louisville. He made another three from the corner with 3:20 remaining to give the Cardinals their biggest lead, 76-66. Hancock wrapped it up by making two free throws with 29 seconds left.
Injured guard Kevin Ware watched again from his seat at the end of the Louisville bench, his injured right led propped up on a chair. He smiled and slapped hands with his teammates as they celebrated in the closing seconds. Then, the basket was lowered so he could cut a strand out of the net.
“These are my brothers,” Ware said. “They got the job done. I’m so proud of them, so proud of them.”
Peyton Siva added 18 points, and Chane Behanan had with 15 points and 12 rebounds as Louisville slowly but surely closed out the Wolverines (31-8).
“A lot of people didn’t expect us to get this far,” said Trey Burke, who led the Wolverines with 24 points. “A lot of people didn’t expect us to get past the second round. We fought. We fought up to this point, but Louisville was the better team today, and they’re deserving of the win.”