INDIANAPOLIS -- It took awhile, but Louisville's players eventually recovered after witnessing a horrific injury to one of their teammates.
Reserve guard Kevin Ware broke his lower right leg in a gruesome-looking injury in the first half, but the Cardinals rallied to defeat second-seeded Duke 85-63 in the Midwest Regional final Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium and advance to the Final Four.
Ware jumped out to contest a 3-pointer with 6:33 left in the first half and snapped the leg when he landed. He was taken off the court on a stretcher and was taken to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. Teammates were shaken, and the injury led to a lengthy stoppage in play.
Late Sunday night, the University of Louisville said in a statement that Ware underwent successful surgery. His right tibia was reset, and a rod was inserted during the two-hour operation. Louisville sports medicine director Fred Hina said the injury might not be career-ending, though Ware likely faces a long rehab.
"When he landed (on the court), I heard it," Louisville guard Russ Smith said. "I'd heard it, and then I seen what happened come out (the bone) and I immediately just, just like, fell.
"And I almost didn't feel nothing, and it was -- it was really hard to pull myself together because I didn't ever think in a million years I would see something like that."
One person helped them pull themselves together -- Ware.
"I don't think any of us, with what we had to witness, could overcome it if it wasn't for Kevin Ware 12 times saying to the guys, 'I'll be fine. Win the game,'" Louisville coach Rick Pitino said.
Those words couldn't have resonated more.
"I don't know how he did it," Louisville's Peyton Siva said. "I don't know how he got the strength to do it, but he told us to go out there and win. These guys really came to play."
Louisville's star guards came up big after the injury to their teammate. Smith scored 23 points and Siva had 16 points and four assists for the Cardinals (33-5). Smith was named the most outstanding player of the regional.
"Their two guards set an amazing pace," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "Siva -- he didn't look like he was even sweating today. He was just so smooth. And then Smith is terrific."
Louisville will play Wichita State in the national semifinals next Saturday. It will be Pitino's seventh trip to the Final Four.
Mason Plumlee led the Blue Devils (30-6) with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Duke's Seth Curry, who scored 29 points in the regional semifinal against Michigan State on Friday and had averaged 24 points in the tournament, was scoreless in the first half and finished with 12 points on 3-for-9 shooting.
Duke's Rasheed Sulaimon, who entered the game averaging 11.8 points per contest, didn't score until 4:33 remained. He fouled out with three points. The Blue Devils' three starting guards -- Curry, Sulaimon and Quinn Cook -- shot a combined 7-for-30 from the field.
Duke defeated Louisville 76-71 on Nov. 24 in the championship game of the Battle for Atlantis in the Bahamas, but Louisville center Gorgui Dieng was injured and didn't play in that game. In this game, Dieng finished with 14 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks.
"It's the best team we've played," Krzyzewski said, "and they're obviously better than we played in the Bahamas."
Smith opened the second half by getting fouled on a 3-pointer. He made all three free throws to give Louisville a six-point cushion. But Curry came right back with a 3-pointer for his first points of the game.
Curry hit another three to cut Louisville's lead to 42-40, then Plumlee dunked on Duke's next possession to tie the score with 16:16 to go.
Siva hit a pullup jumper, then scored on a driving layup to give Louisville a 49-42 lead with 13:32 remaining.
Siva scored on a transition basket to push Louisville's lead to 53-44, then Dieng hit a jumper to give Louisville its first double-digit lead. Dieng hit another jumper to make it 57-44, Luke Hancock made a 3-pointer to bump Louisville's lead to 16 and the Cardinals coasted from there.
"I thought we had a chance there, and then, boom," Krzyzewski said. "And that's what they do to teams. They boom you."
Duke trailed 33-32 in the closing seconds of the first half and had a chance to take the lead into the break. Instead, Curry's shot was blocked and Smith was fouled at the other end on a fast-break layup attempt with 2.3 seconds left in the half. Smith made both free throws to give the Cardinals a 35-32 lead at the break.
Smith scored 12 points in the first half for Louisville. Plumlee had nine points and six rebounds for Duke before intermission. Ryan Kelly scored seven points in the first half for the Blue Devils, but he played just eight minutes because he committed three fouls.
Curry went scoreless in the first half on 0-for-3 shooting and didn't even get a shot off for the first 8 1/2 minutes.
Louisville dominated the second half.
The Cardinals have a little extra incentive against Wichita State after Ware's injury.
"We want to do this for him," Siva said. "We know how much it means for him to be out there, and how much he wants to be out there."
NOTES: The injury to Ware brought back memories of a similar injury suffered by former Louisville running back Michael Bush, who currently plays for the Chicago Bears. Bush entered the 2006 college football season as one of top prospects for the 2007 NFL Draft, but suffered a broken right tibia in the first game of the season -- after running for 128 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. He missed the entire 2006 season. ... Krzyzewski entered the game with an 11-1 record in Elite Eight games. ... Duke's streak of 18 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances is the nation's longest. ... Duke has won 30 or more games 13 times, all under Krzyzewski. ... Curry has hit a 3-pointer in 18 consecutive games . ... Louisville has reached the Elite Eight in three of the past four seasons. ... Louisville defeated Duke 72-69 for the 1986 national title. ... Krzyzewski and Pitino faced off in the 1992 regional title game with Krzyzewski coaching Duke and Pitino coaching Kentucky. Christian Laettner hit his famous last-second jumper in Duke's 104-103 win, and the Blue Devils eventually won the national title. ... This is the fourth regional Indianapolis has hosted. Indianapolis also hosted in 1940, 1979 and 2009. ... Duke won its national championship in 2010 in Indianapolis, defeating the hometown Butler Bulldogs in the final.