Chane Behanan promised his Louisville teammates and coach Rick Pitino he would play his heart out Monday night in the national championship game.
The man is true to his word.
Luke Hancock was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four and deserved it after his hot shooting helped the Cardinals overcome a 12-point Michigan lead in the first half. But nobody was bigger for Louisville in the second half than Behanan, who produced a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds, including 11 rebounds after halftime.
"I'll tell you something about Chane Behanan," Pitino said. "When the chips are down, things don't go well, that young man rises to a new level. There's no question, when I looked at him today, he shook my hand and said, 'Don't worry about me, I'll bring it tonight.' He always rises in big games. He's 6-6, 6-7. He was a monster tonight."
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Behanan produced only two previous double-doubles this season in 40-minute games and both came before Christmas. He had 14 points and 11 rebounds against Florida International on Dec. 19 and 12 points with 18 rebounds on Nov. 15 against Samford.
He also had a 30-point, 15-rebound outing in a five overtime loss to Notre Dame on Feb. 9.
A year ago as a cocky freshman from Cincinnati, Behanan predicted the Cardinals would go undefeated in the 2011-12 season. He later predicted that once Louisville advanced to the Final Four a year ago, it would be 'a piece of cake.'" The Cardinals were eliminated a year ago in the national semifinals by Kentucky.
Behanan said coming back to win the title and playing a big part in getting over the final obstacle was satisfying.
"For me, it's just a dream come true," Behanan. "Just coming from where I come from, Cincinnati, Ohio, the area I grew up in, any kid would want to trade places with me today. To have the opportunity to come out here to show my talent, win a national championship with my brothers, it's unbelievable. I love these guys like they my real brothers. That's it. It's just a dream come true."
It appeared Behanan hadn't matured much at the start of this season when he was suspended for an exhibition game against the University of Pikeville and prohibited from doing interviews in the first part of the season.
Behanan put all that aside and played the role of a grinder consistently this year with the occasionally flashy moment or big scoring outburst.
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"Chane is a great player," Point guard Peyton Siva said. "Coach kept telling him for these last 16 games, 'Chane, you got to rebound.' We watched countless number of hours of film on Kenny Faried. Chane told me before the game. He said, 'Thank you.' I was like, 'What?'
He just said, 'Thank you.'
"He came out today, and he was a man amongst boys on the boards. He started padding his stats a little bit, trying to miss his layups and get it back, but he played terrific tonight."
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