The Louisville Cardinals are National Champions after defeating the Michigan Wolverines in an instant-classic 82-76 title game.
The Cardinals overcame an early double-digit deficit and, with help from a run of three-pointers by Most Outstanding Player Luke Hancock, got the game close at halftime; kept the game close throughout most of the second half; and eventually went on a late run to win the NCAA basketball championship game Monday night.
Michigan also hit well from outside the arc. After National Player of the Year Trey Burke fouled out early, backup point guard Spike Albrecht scored a career-high 17 points in the first half, in the process making four out of five attempted three-pointers.
Louisville’s bench countered with Hancock, who hit four three-pointers in the last three minutes of the first half to draw Louisville back into the game.
The Cardinals stuck around long enough to take advantage of a few missed opportunities by the youngest team in the entire tournament who squandered several fast break opportunities and had too many late turnovers.
The game was not without some controversy, however, as several questionable calls seemed to go Louisville’s way.
Burke picked up his second foul in the first half despite replays showing he did not initiate contact on a shooting Hancock who leaned into Burke. In the final stretch, he made a player-of-the-year quality block on Louisville point guard Peyton Siva with Michigan down three points, only to be called for a foul, much to the surprise of the announcers calling the game. After hitting both free throws, Louisville went on their game-clinching 9-2 run.
Burke acknowledged the importance of the play, but did not blame officials for the outcome of the game.
“It could have been momentum. If it was a no-call, we could have gotten possession. We can’t go back on that now; Louisville deserved it,” he said.
Late in the tournament, Louisville showed impressive resiliency, never backing down or counting themselves out when behind early. They made championship-level comebacks filled with star players and improbable contributors, and now sit atop the college basketball world.