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Louisville rallies past Wichita State for spot in title game

Deshaun Thomas Carl Hall

Deshaun Thomas, Carl Hall

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Updated: May 8, 2013 7:15AM



ATLANTA — This is what championship teams do.

On a night when a lot was going wrong, Louisville rallied to defeat Wichita State 72-68 in the first Final Four game Saturday at the Georgia Dome.

The Cardinals (34-5), who trailed 47-35 with 131/2 minutes left, will meet Michigan in the national championship game Monday.

‘‘(The Shockers) are as well-coached a team as we have faced this season,’’ said Louisville coach Rick Pitino, who will try to add a second national title to the one he won with Kentucky in 1996. ‘‘We beat a great team tonight. I just kept telling the guys, ‘We are going to make a run.’ It’s about our defense.’’

Sixth man Luke Hancock, who averages 7.4 points, scored 20 against Wichita to spark the Louisville rally.

‘‘We had to win with our second unit,’’ Pitino said. ‘‘(Hancock) is probably the best offensive player we have. The tempo was not ours. Give (the Shockers] credit. But the bench won the game for us.’’

After playing for 25 minutes without committing a turnover against a Cardinals defense that forces turnovers, the Shockers (30-9) made seven in the final seven minutes.

‘‘Down the stretch, we were loose with the ball,’’ guard Malcolm Armstead said. ‘‘We just didn’t take care of it. I can’t give you an explanation. It just happened.’’

For Wichita State, the first Missouri Valley Conference team to reach the Final Four since Larry-Bird-led Indiana State in 1979, the disappointment ran deep. But the Shockers also knew what they had accomplished.

Cleanthony Early, who led all scorers with 24 points, kept the disappointment in perspective.

‘‘It’s just mixed emotions,’’ Early said. ‘‘It hurts to lose. But these guys fought till the end. We had a great season.’’



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