Posted April 06, 2013 on AP on Fox
Wichita State did everything right for nearly 30 minutes, building a second-half lead and putting itself in position to become the lowest-seeded team ever to play for a national title. Over the final 10 minutes, mighty Louisville started to play like Louisville, and the ninth-seeded Shockers' feel-good story started to slowly slip away. After going more than 25 minutes without a turnover, they started to mount against the Cardinals' frustrating full-court press. The missed shots, each one sounding like a canon blast as it clanked off the rim, became more numerous for Wichita State, and a jump ball with eight seconds left and the Shockers trailing by three kept them from having a chance at forcing overtime. Instead, Russ Smith went back to the free-throw line and made the only foul shot he needed, and Louisville hung on for a 72-68 victory Saturday night that sent the Shockers home from their first Final Four trip since 1965 with a bitter taste after an otherwise sweet ride. Cleanthony Early had 24 points and 10 rebounds for the Shockers, including six straight in the final 2 minutes, as they tried to hung tough with the Big East champions. Carl Hall, whose nose was bloodied early in the game, added 13 points for Wichita State, and Ron Baker finished with 11 - though it will almost certainly be his inability to wrestle the ball loose from that jump ball in the closing seconds that will stick out in the freshman's mind. Wichita State (30-9) had already eclipsed the season record for victories on its way to becoming the first team from the Missouri Valley Conference to reach the Final Four since Larry Bird and Indiana State in 1979. Along the way, the Shockers knocked off top-seeded Gonzaga and No. 2 seed Ohio State with a blend of gritty toughness and never-say-never attitude embodied by their coach, Gregg Marshall. It was that toughness that allowed the Shockers to stay close in the first half, when shots weren't falling for either team, and forge a 26-25 lead by the break. They started to slowly draw away early in the second half, scoring on nine of their first 11 possessions, and Tekele Cotton's basket with 14:16 left gave Wichita State a 43-32 lead and made Louisville coach Rick Pitino signal to the officials for a timeout. The lead grew to 12 points on a 3-pointer by Early, but the Shockers started to run into foul trouble - top ball-handler Malcolm Armstead spent long stretches of the second half on the bench - and that allowed Louisville to swiftly and efficiently cut into the lead. The Cardinals finally pulled ahead on a basket by Smith with 4:40 left, and then showed the kind of tournament-tested moxie it takes to win in March in the closing minutes. In doing so, they denied the plucky Shockers a chance at their first national championship.
THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
RELATED ARTICLES

Wichita State’s Cleanthony Early throws down huge dunk over Louisville

An early portion of the Final Four game between Wichita State and Louisville was an issue for the Cards. First, an airball, then, nothing but dunk city.

Wichita State’s Out Of The Tournament, But Cleanthony Early’s Here To Stay

No one expected Wichita State to make it past Gonzaga in the first round, but there’s a reason they’re call… [[ Read More ]]

Hurricane Irene turns out to be WSU blessing

ATLANTA (AP) As Hurricane Irene churned along the East Coast, flight after flight was getting canceled, and Cleanthony Early remembers thinking to himself, "I'm stuck in Kansas." The talented forward from upstate New York was on a recruiting visit to Wichita State, which he barely knew existed before the trip. The first two days had gone well, though, and he was starting...

Final Four Predictions: #9 Wichita State vs. #1 Louisville

Cleanthony Early Wichita State versus Louisville. The Shockers versus the Cardinals. A trip to the national championship game on the line. And the winner is….. If anyone had Wichita State in the Final Four in their brackets, props. The Shockers defeated Ohio State by four in the Elite Eight to reach the Final Four. Louisville ran through Duke in the Elite Eight, winning by 22...

Final Four Preview: Wichita St. vs Louisville

By Dale Yarborough ACC Bureau Reporter (9) Wichita State will take on (1) Louisville in the Final Four matchup. Each team is coming off of an impressive win against their Elite-8 opponents and neither team wants the journey to end here. Wichita State has defeated (8) Pittsburgh, (1) Gonzaga, (13) La Salle, and (2) Ohio State thus far, and hope to add (1) Louisville to the list...
College Basketball News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.