Louisville uses furious comeback to advance to title game - WRBL

Louisville uses furious comeback to advance to title game

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ATLANTA, Ga. -

It was an ending many expected, but few wanted, but Rick Pitino's Louisville Cardinals escaped a Wichita State team that more than proved it belonged among the nation's elite with a 72-68 win Saturday night.

Before a largely pro-Shocker crowd inside the Georgia Dome, the Cardinals battled their way back from a 12-point deficit in the second half to take the lead for good on a Russ Smith layup with 4:50 to play.

"I just kept telling the guys, this is the Georgetown game," Pitino said. "We are going to make our run. It is about defense. The tempo is not ours; give them their credit, but the bench won the game for us tonight. Unbelievable display."

Wichita State was able to pull within two on four separate occasions, but could never close the gap beyond that.

The Shockers set out to live up to their name in the first half, starting the game on an 8-0 run. Louisville answered to take the lead at 9-8, but Wichita State hung around and led 26-25 at halftime.

Even after Louisville took the lead, Wichita State had a shot late. Up two with nine seconds left, Luke Hancock missed the second of two free throws, and the Shockers rebounded, trailing by three. But a controversial jump ball call gave Louisville possession. After a foul, Russ Smith hit one of two free throws to ice it.

"We just played super hard," Smith said. "Nobody wanted to go home. Wichita State did a great job of hanging with us, sticking with their game plan. We just fought really hard."

Smith led the Cardinals with 21 points on six-of-17 shooting. Hancock finished with 20, including three-of-five from three-point. Wichita State's Cleanthony Early led everybody with 24 to go with 10 rebounds. Carl Hall had 13 and Ron Baker had 11.

"We had to win it with our second unit, but he [Luke Hancock] is not a second-unit player. He is probably the best offensive player we have. I'm so proud of him, two separated shoulders, torn ligaments, a great, great basketball player."

Louisville moves on to face the winner of Syracuse and Michigan in the national championship game Monday night.

Jonathan Huskey

Jonathan comes to News 3 from Fort Smith/Fayetteville, Ark., where he anchored weekends and reported during the week on some of the best high school sports in the state. More>>

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