ATLANTA — With an aching heart and a shot that couldn’t miss, Luke Hancock helped Kevin Ware and the rest of the Louisville Cardinals win their national title.
Given increased playing time and more shots because of Ware’s injury, Hancock almost singlehandedly brought Louisville back from a 12-point deficit in the first half Monday, going 5 for 5 from 3-point range in a 82-76 win over Michigan in the national title game.
Hancock finished with 22 points to add to the 20 from Saturday night’s semifinals and was named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player.
“We needed a rally and we’ve been doing it for a couple of games straight, being down,” Hancock said. “We just had to wait and make our run.”
Quite a performance from the player coach Rick Pitino was afraid to start because he wanted to keep him out of foul trouble.
Quite a treat for Hancock’s father, Bill, who is gravely ill with a sickness the family does not want to disclose, but made the trip down from Roanoke, Va., nonetheless to see his son become the star of the Final Four.
Some might say the junior, a transfer from George Mason, won the game for Louisville. It might be more appropriate to say he kept it from getting out of control. With leading scorer Russ Smith struggling and Michigan freshman Spike Albrecht doing his best Hancock impression by making his first four 3-pointers, Louisville fell behind by 12 in the first half and was struggling to find momentum.
In came Hancock. First he made two free throws. Then, he made shot after shot after shot after shot. Yes, four straight 3-pointers, accounting for 14 straight Louisville points as part of a 16-3 run that turned a 33-21 deficit into a one-point lead.
This marked the seventh time Louisville has come back from double digits to win this season — and the second time the Cards (35-5) have turned a 12-point deficit into a victory in Atlanta.