Louisville rallies late against Wichita State, advances to title game

By Jeff Borzello | College Basketball Writer

Playing it cool, Rick Pitino (right) believed in his Cards to make a run, and they came through. (USATSI)
Playing it cool, Rick Pitino (right) had no doubt his Cards would make a run, and they came through. (USATSI)

ATLANTA -- Wichita State led top-seeded Louisville by 12 points with less than 14 minutes left in the second half, but head coach Rick Pitino had confidence in his team.

“I just kept telling the guys . . . ‘We are going to make our run,' ” Pitino said on CBS after the game.

The Cardinals outscored Wichita State by 16 points over the final 13:16, cranking up the defensive pressure late in the game to win 72-68.

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Wichita State came closer than any team has to beating Louisville since early February, and the Shockers' ability to take care of the ball was a major reason. They went 26-plus minutes without a turnover -- but coughed it up seven times in the final 6:43. Louisville was able to turn those seven late turnovers into 11 points, giving the Cardinals the edge down the stretch.

With Louisville getting into foul trouble, Pitino had to look to other options. Luke Hancock came off the bench to score 20 points on nine shots, and Montrezl Harrell made plays in the first half and finished with eight points and four boards. Walk-on Tim Henderson had six points, and Stephan Van Treese gave the Cardinals good minutes.

“The bench won the game for us tonight,” Pitino said on CBS. “Unbelievable display.”

The key moment in the final minute came with 6.3 seconds left, when Wichita State's Ron Baker grabbed a missed Hancock free throw. He turned to go downcourt, but Hancock reached at the ball -- and the referees called an awfully quick jump ball. The possession arrow pointed to Louisville, and the Cardinals' Russ Smith hit the game-clinching free throw.

What makes the jump-ball call even worse for Wichita State fans is that the only reason that Louisville had the arrow was because of a questionable double-foul call earlier in the second half.

Louisville advances to Monday night to play for the title against either Syracuse or Michigan.

 
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