After a ferocious comeback that saw Louisville capitalize off of costly turnovers by Wichita State late in the game, the Cardinals are headed to the NCAA tournament championship game for the first time since 1986.
For most of Friday night’s matchup, the No. 9 seed Shockers were in control and looked poised to come away with yet another upset. Leading by double digits with 13 minutes to play, it seemed unlikely that the No. 1 seed was going to be able to pull this one off.
Cue the Lousiville bench.
Luke Hancock, a junior forward, came off the bench and sparked his team with a game-high 20 points. Walk-on Tim Henderson, who saw increased playing time because of the injury to Kevin Ware, nailed a couple of clutch threes down the stretch to bring the Cardinals back into the game. Ware watched from the bench.
The Shockers began to unravel late in the second when they committed five turnovers in seven possessions — after going more than 26 minutes without turning the ball over. With 4:47 remaining, the Shockers saw their last lead of the night slip away as Russ Smith, who led the Cardinals with 21 points, took it in for an easy layup after a steal. Wichita State pulled within two with 22 seconds left, but the Shockers were forced to foul and Smith and Hancock both sunk their free throws for the Cardinals.
Louisville will face the winner of the Syracuse-Michigan game for the national title on Monday night.