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Cardinals rule: Louisville rallies for title

The SportsXchange

ATLANTA -- Louisville took Michigan's best shot and survived. The Cardinals are the 2013 NCAA champions.

Senior point guard Peyton Siva and tournament star Luke Hancock each had dynamic games, leading Louisville, the No. 1 overall seed, to an 82-76 win over the fourth-seeded Wolverines.

Siva dazzled with his ball-handling and slashing ability. He finished with 18 points, six rebounds, five assists and four steals.

Hancock lit it up from outside, connecting on all five of his 3-point attempts. The junior guard/forward made eight of 10 3-pointers in two Final Four games and was named the most outstanding player.

"It doesn't get better than this, it's unbelievable," he said.

Louisville coach Rick Pitino, a part of the 2013 Basketball Hall of Fame class, becomes the first coach to win a national championship at two different schools. He guided Kentucky to the 1996 title.

Pitino also will be sporting his first tattoo, something he promised his team back in February if they won it all.

"They said if you win the national championship, Coach, you are getting a tattoo," Pitino said during the postgame celebration. "I said, 'Hell, yeah, I am getting a tattoo.'"

A crowd of 74,326, a record for an NCAA final, was treated to a fantastic back-and-forth game that capped what was considered a down year for college basketball. Stars and unheralded reserves for both teams hit big shots. There were alley-oop dunks, collisions at the rim and 16 3-pointers, fueling an electric atmosphere at the Georgia Dome.

Hancock's last 3-pointer put Louisville up by 10 with 3:13 to play. Michigan got back to within 78-74 with 50.1 seconds to play, but the Cardinals hit enough free throws down the stretch to seal the school's first national championship since 1986 and third overall.

National player of the year Trey Burke was terrific for Michigan, despite early foul trouble that limited his playing time in the first half. So was his backup, freshman Michael "Spike" Albrecht, who had 17 points, all in a remarkable first-half performance.

Burke finished with a game-high 24 for the Wolverines.

"We fought for 40 minutes," said Burke, a junior, who declined to answer questions about whether he'd declare for the NBA Draft. "There was never a point in time that we gave up."

Louisville started to take control early in the second half. Russ Smith's corner 3-pointer put the Cardinals up 52-46 with 13 minutes to go.

Pitino shuffled players in and out throughout the game, and Louisville's relentless pressure seemed to wear down Michigan in the second half. However, fouls mounted on the Cardinals. Michigan was in the double bonus for the game's final 4 1/2 minutes. It didn't matter. Louisville just had too many weapons.

Hancock finished with 22 points, and Chane Behanan added 15 for the Cardinals (35-5), who end the season on a 16-game win streak.

Burke started hot, scoring the Wolverines' first seven points, but he picked up his second foul with 11 minutes left in the first half. Enter Albrecht, a freshman reserve whose season high was seven points. He hit all four of his 3-point attempts.

Albrecht's weaving layup put Michigan up 33-21 and forced Pitino to call timeout with 3:51 to play in the first half.

The Cardinals responded with a 14-3 run, with all of Louisville's points coming from Hancock. He hit four 3-pointers in a two-minute span.

After leading by 12 with just under four minutes left in the first half, Michigan (31-8) went to the locker room up just 38-37.

"We were rolling there in the first half, but Louisville went on a good run," Albrect said. "I felt really good going into the second half. Unfortunately, we fell a bit short."

The win caps an emotional run for the Cardinals, who were brought to tears earlier in the tournament when key reserve Kevin Ware suffered a gruesome leg injury in an Elite Eight win over Duke.

Ware joined the postgame celebration on the court with his teammates and even got to cut down a piece of the net.

"It is not about me," Ware said. "Our team came out here and beat a great Michigan team. These are my brothers. They got the job done, and I'm am so proud of them."

NOTES: The two-day Final Four attendance of 149,676 set an all-time record, breaking the previous mark of 145,797 set at Reliant Stadium in Houston in 2011. ... Ex-Michigan star Chris Webber was in attendance, sitting next to his former Wolverines teammates Jalen Rose and Juwan Howard. ... Pitino is the fifth coach to take two different schools to the national championship game. ... The teams combined to shoot 48.1 percent from the field in the first half, including 57.8 percent from the 3-point arc. Louisville finished at 45.9 percent overall, 50 percent on 3-pointers. Michigan hit 52.1 percent of its shots, 44.4 percent of its 3s. ... Pitino improved to 6-0 in the Georgia Dome.
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