Louisville rallied from a 12-point first-half deficit to beat Michigan 82-76.
They were the favorites and the top-seeded team in the tournament didn't disappoint - winning in entertaining fashion.
TSN Basketball Analyst Jack Armstrong,
Former Niagara U Coach
CBS's Steve Futterman in Atlanta
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Spike Albrecht shined while Trey Burke sat.
"The team unity we had, the sacrifice we had from five seniors who did not get to play very much, to these young guys buying into the team concept. We feel bad about it. There are some things we could have done better and get a win, but at the same time, Louisville is a terrific basketball team."
With Burke on the bench in early foul trouble, the seldom-used Albrecht scored 17 points in the first half, and the Wolverines led by 12 in Monday night's national title game. But that lead was only one at halftime, and the Cardinals went on to win 82-76.
Albrecht and Burke both played plenty in the second half, but Michigan couldn't prevent Louisville from converting around the basket. Albrecht went scoreless after halftime, leaving Burke - the national player of the year - to try to rally Michigan. He did his best, finishing with 24 points in what might have been his final college game, but it wasn't enough.
"Louisville was the better team today, and they're deserving of the win," Burke said. "We fought all the way, for 40 minutes - there was never a point in time we gave up. Louisville was just a really solid team at the end of the game. ... They took care of the ball, they hit foul shots, and they were the better team."
In the end, Michigan simply couldn't prevent Louisville from scoring. The Wolverines shot 52 percent from the field and 8 of 18 from 3-point range, but when they fell behind late, they weren't able to string together enough stops for a rally.
Michigan had been vulnerable for much of the season at the defensive end, and Louisville had enough talent and muscle to take advantage. The Cardinals finished with 15 offensive rebounds and each one seemed more devastating than the previous to the Wolverines, still seeking their first NCAA championship since 1989.
Michigan (31-8) trailed by four with about a minute to play, and Caris LeVert appeared to come down with a big defensive rebound for the Wolverines.
But he was ruled out of bounds. After that, Louisville had control.
"I've had a lot of really good teams over the years, and some emotional locker rooms, and that was the most emotional we've ever had," Michigan coach John Beilein, a former ECC & Canisius head basketball coach said.
The Fab Five went to the NCAA title game in 1992 and 1993 but lost both times.
This year's Wolverines looked as though they might surpass those runs by one victory, but Louisville (35-5) was too powerful inside. Michigan freshman big man Mitch McGary, who had come almost out of nowhere to have a terrific tournament, had only six points and six rebounds against Louisville. He was limited to 29 minutes with his own foul trouble.
Albrecht had the time of his life early. With Burke on the bench in foul trouble, the 5-foot-11 backup point guard made all four of his 3-pointers in the first half. Michigan had a 38-37 lead at halftime, thanks to Albrecht's 17 points.
Not bad for a freshman who was averaging 1.8 points per game and whose main job was to relieve some of the ball-handling pressure from Burke.
Albrecht had made all five of his 3-point attempts in the NCAA tournament coming into Monday night's game, and he was 4 for 4 from beyond the arc at the break. He finally missed one from long distance in the second half.
"I was fortunately hitting shots, teammates were finding me," Albrecht said. "A year ago, I didn't have anyone looking at me, and (Beilein) took a chance on me. ... When he recruited me, he said we're here to win championships, so that's what we expected."
After his second 3-pointer gave Michigan a 17-11 lead, Albrecht was hooting and hollering a bit when he came back downcourt.
Burke picked up his second foul with 11:09 left in the first half and played only 6 minutes before the break.
"If a guy has two fouls, they're going to attack him and attack him, and he's just going to give up baskets," Beilein said. "We're up by one at half, and the AP player of the year was not in, so we felt really good at halftime."
Albrecht gave his team a lift. At one point, he went to the floor for a loose ball and somehow threw it some 20 feet ahead to a teammate. The transition chance led to a 3-pointer by Nik Stauskas.
When Albrecht drew a foul with 8:13 to go in the half, Burke was clapping on the bench with a bemused smile on his face, as if he couldn't believe this performance, either.
When Louisville called a timeout to regroup, Burke ran quickly over to his backup and gave Albrecht a chest bump while the Wolverines returned to their bench.
Albrecht's previous season high was seven points. His season high for minutes was 15 - until he played 16 in the first half Monday.
Since at least 1997, only one other player has set a career high in scoring in the NCAA title game, according to STATS. That was Florida's Udonis Haslem in 2000 in a loss to Michigan State.
Once Louisville found a comfort zone offensively, the Wolverines needed more than just Albrecht's shooting.
Burke, who considered going to the NBA last year but returned for his sophomore season, drove relentlessly to the basket late in the second half, hitting the floor hard on a couple of occasions. Unlike against Kansas in the regional semifinals - when Burke's long 3-pointer forced overtime - Michigan couldn't come back.
What a week for Rick Pitino!
He's elected to the Hall of Fame. His horse is headed to the Kentucky Derby. His son gets a prominent head coaching job.
Then he caps it off with another national championship.
For that, he can thank 13 of the grittiest guys he's ever coached.
Luke Hancock (with Pittino, R) produced another huge game off the bench, scoring 22 points, and Pitino became the first coach to win national titles at two schools when Louisville rallied from another 12-point deficit to beat Michigan 82-76 in the NCAA championship game Monday night.
"This team is one of the most together, toughest and hard-nosed teams," the coach said. "Being down never bothers us. They just come back."
More like relentless to the very end.
They're not stopping now, either. The players intend to hold Pitino to a promise he made: If they won a national title, he'd get a tattoo.
Better leave a lot of space, coach, if you want to make this a tribute to the team.
"I have a couple of ideas," said Hancock, who became the first sub in tournament history to be designated as most outstanding player. "He doesn't know what he's getting into."
"Our biggest motivation," Peyton Siva added, "was to get coach a tattoo."
That's about the only thing that didn't exactly turn out in Petino's favor. Earlier Monday, he was introduced as a member of the latest Hall of Fame class. On Saturday, his horse won the Santa Anita Derby to set up a run for the roses. And last week his son got the coaching job at Minnesota.
The Cardinals (35-5) lived up to their billing as the top overall seed in the tournament, though they sure had to work for it.
Louisville trailed Wichita State by a dozen in the second half before rallying for a 72-68 victory. This time, they fell behind by 12 in the first half, then unleashed a stunning spurt led by Hancock that wiped out the entire deficit before the break.
"I had the 13 toughest guys I've ever coached," Pitino said. "I'm just amazed they could accomplish everything we put out there."
No one was tougher than Hancock, who matched his season high after a 20-point effort in the semifinal victory over Wichita State. This time, he came off the bench to hit four straight 3-pointers in the first half after Michigan got a boost from an even more unlikely player.
Freshman Spike Albrecht made four straight from beyond the arc, too, blowing by his career high before the break with 17 points. Coming in, Albrecht was averaging 1.8 points a game and had not scored more than seven all season.
Albrecht didn't do much in the second half, but Hancock finished what he started for Louisville. He made it 5-for-5 when he hit his final 3 from the corner with 3:20 remaining to give the Cardinals their biggest lead, 76-66. Michigan wouldn't go away, but Hancock wrapped it up by making two free throws with 29 seconds left.
While Pitino shrugged off any attempt to make this about him, there was no doubt the Cardinals wanted to win a national title for someone else - injured guard Kevin Ware.
Watching again from his seat at the end of the Louisville bench, his injured right leg propped up on a chair, Ware smiled and slapped hands with his teammates as they celebrated in the closing seconds, the victory coming just 30 miles from where he played his high school ball.
Ware's gruesome injury during the regional final will forever be linked to this tournament. He landed awkwardly, snapped his leg and was left writhing on the floor with the bone sticking through the skin. On this night, he hobbled gingerly onto the court with the aid of crutches, basking in a sea of confetti and streamers.
Louisville again came out wearing Ware's No. 5 on the back of their warmup jerseys; the front said, "Ri5e to the Occasion."
When the title belonged to the Cardinals, Ware put on a championship cap and got a big hug from Pitino. Then, they lowered the basket so the injured player could cut a strand out of the net. (Pictured R >>)
This one belonged to him as much as anyone on the court.
"These are my brothers," Ware said. "They got the job done. I'm so proud of them, so proud of them."
Siva added 18 points for the Cardinals, who closed the season on a 16-game winning streak, and Chane Behanan chipped in with 15 points and 12 rebounds as Louisville slowly but surely closed out the Wolverines (31-8).
Michigan was in the title game for the first time since the Fab Five lost the second of two straight championship games in 1993. Players from that team, including Chris Webber, cheered on the latest group of young stars.
But, like the Fab Five, national player of the year Trey Burke (L) and a squad with three freshman starters came up short in the last game of the season.
"A lot of people didn't expect us to get this far," said Burke, who led the Wolverines with 24 points. "A lot of people didn't expect us to get past the second round. We fought. We fought up to this point, but Louisville was the better team today, and they're deserving of the win."
Louisville has a chance to make it two national titles in 24 hours.
The surprising women's team faces Connecticut on Tuesday night in the championship game at New Orleans.
Good luck matching this breakneck finale. The first half, in particular, might have been the most entertaining 20 minutes of the entire men's tournament.
Burke (pictured R) started out on fire for Michigan, hitting his first three shots and scoring seven points to match his output from the semifinal victory over Syracuse, when he made only 1-of-8 shots.
Albrecht took control when Burke picked up his second foul and had to go to the bench for the rest of the half. The kid whose nickname comes from his first pair of baseball spikes showed he's a pretty good hoops player, knocking down one 3-pointer after another to send the Wolverines to a double-digit lead.
When Albrecht blew by Tim Henderson with a brilliant hesitation move, Michigan led 33-21 and Louisville was forced to call timeout. The freshman was mobbed on the Michigan bench, as if the Wolverines had already won the national title, with one teammate waving a towel in tribute.
"That was honestly, probably back to high school days," Albrecht said, remembering when he's had a similar stretch. "Coach (John) Beilein doesn't play guys with two fouls in the first half, so I knew I was in the rest of the half, and I was fortunately hitting shots. Teammates were finding me. That's about it."
It didn't last. Not against Louisville.
The Cardinals came back one more time.
"We just went into war right there with a great Michigan team," Hancock said. "We needed a rally and we've been doing it for a couple of games straight, being down. We just had to wait and make our run."
Burke, who played only six minutes in the first half because of the foul trouble, did his best to give Michigan its first championship since 1989. But he couldn't do it alone. Albrecht was held scoreless after the break, and no one else posted more than 12 points for the Wolverines.
Still, it was quite a run for a fourth-seeded team that knocked off No. 1-seeded Kansas with the greatest comeback of the tournament, rallying from 14 points down in the second half to beat the Jayhawks in the round of the 16.
But they came up against the ultimate comeback team in the final.
"I've had a lot of really good teams over the years, and some emotional locker rooms, and that was the most emotional we've ever had," Beilein said. "The team unity we had, the sacrifice we had from five seniors who did not get to play very much, to these young guys buying into the team concept.
"We feel bad about it. There are some things we could have done better and get a win, but at the same time, Louisville is a terrific basketball team. We have not seen that quickness anywhere."
Louisville had already pulled off a stunning rally in the Big East championship game - down by 16 in the second half, they won by 17 - and another against Wichita State. They surged back again behind their own ace off the bench.
Hancock matched Albrecht from the 3-point stripe. Then, trapping the youngster and knocking the ball away, he set up a fast break that ended with Siva flipping up a lob that Montrezl Harrell slammed through for a dunk, capping a stunning 16-3 run in less than 4 minutes that gave the Cardinals their first lead of the night, 37-36.
Glenn Robinson III made two free throws with two seconds left to give Michigan a 38-37 lead at halftime.
But everyone knew this game was just getting started.
And when it was done, Pitino, Ware and the Cardinals were celebrating in the middle of the mammoth Georgia Dome, assuring the national title will stay in the bluegrass another year.
Last season, it was Kentucky winning it all, the same team that gave Pitino his first title in 1996.Now, he's got another one - right down the road in Louisville.
With a national championship slipping away in the final minutes, Trey Burke raced back on defense and gave Michigan fans one more spectacular play to remember.
The last note of "One Shining Moment" had yet to reach the people in the cheap seats at the Georgia Dome when college basketball started doing what it does so well - looking ahead to next season.
Hundreds streamed onto Cardinal Boulevard after Louisville's 82-76 victory over Michigan on Monday night, screaming, dancing and lighting off small fireworks in revelry that lasted into the early hours.
"This means everything," said Connor Millay, 19, a Northern Kentucky University student who traveled to Louisville despite facing two tests Tuesday.
"I've been waiting for this my whole life," Millay said. "My dad experienced this. My grandpa experienced this. I needed one of these."
Elsewhere around town, Cardinals faithful partied in dormitories and around campus, in bars and restaurants and in living rooms after Louisville claimed its third national championship.
Most chose the quiet comforts of home over the noisy crowds that assembled in the Fourth Street Live! entertainment district. But when Louisville emerged victorious at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, emotions were felt everywhere.
"We've been waiting for this for the past 27 years," said Joe Barnes, 61, a University of Louisville alumnus who walked among the thousands of students on Cardinal Boulevard. "This has been one of the best teams that U of L has had. Ever. They've showed more spirit, more hustle. They believe in each other."
Standing ready were a combination of Louisville and campus police and sheriff's deputies, prepared for large crowds and celebrations that have been commonplace since the Cardinals reached the Final Four and then beat Wichita State in Saturday night's semifinal.
University spokesman John Drees said more than 5,000 people were estimated to be packed onto Cardinal Boulevard.
"Everybody's happy," he said. "Everybody's celebrating."
He said police arrested 10 people on charges of drunken and disorderly conduct. Several were injured, two on falls and one with a cut foot.
However, things got out of hand around Cardinal Boulevard and Third Street as the celebration was winding down.
Riot police were called in after an officer was attacked. Students quickly fled the area but several scuffles ensued and bottles were thrown, forcing police to use tear gas. The armored carrier was brought in and order was restored before 2:30 a.m.
The citywide party could be repeated Tuesday night if the Cardinals' women's team beats Connecticut for the NCAA championship in New Orleans.
For now, the area is savoring the Cardinals' men's achievement.
"It's huge," said freshman Paul DeNeve. "We have not only won tonight but the women's team plays tomorrow."