Courtesy of MCT
Buckeye fans won’t have to worry about their archrival celebrating a national championship in basketball this season. The Michigan Wolverines fell Monday night to the Louisville Cardinals, 82-76, in the national championship game. Louisville became the eighth school to win three, or more, national championships and coach Rick Pitino becomes the first coach in history to win a national title at two different schools.
In a fast-paced game that saw a combined 158 points, the game came down to the fight in the paint. Louisville’s sophomore forward Chane Behanan made a big impact during the second half, with 12 rebounds that eventually wore down a perimeter oriented Wolverine team.
Coming into the game, it was thought that standout freshman forward Mitch McGary would handle the inside for Michigan. However, it was the Cardinals who played with an increased physicality, including eight rebounds and three blocks from junior center Gorgui Dieng.
It can also be said that the game was won by the Cardinals well before the second half as they withstood an Wolverine run from an unlikely source. Freshman point guard Spike Albrecht averages 1.8 points per game and saw sporadic playing time during the tournament, but the young guard exploded with a bevy of threes and dropped 17 points in his first 16 minutes of play to give Michigan a 12-point lead at 33-21.
With 11:09 to play in the first half, Michigan sophomore guard Trey Burke was hit with his second foul. Michigan coach John Beilein made a crucial decision to sit his star point-guard for the remainder of the first half. The Cardinals capitalized on Burke’s absence by turning up the pressure and going on a run of their own.
Louisville junior guard Luke Hancock hit four 3-pointers down the stretch of the first half to whittle the Michigan lead down to one.
Louisville carried the momentum through the second half to bring the national title back to the Bluegrass State for a second consecutive season after Kentucky won the national championship last season.
The Wolverines were not able to bring the Big Ten a national championship on a year where the conference was considered by many to be the strongest in college basketball.
Some Buckeye fans reluctantly pulled for the Wolverines in a display of conference pride, but the Cardinals were just too tough and experienced for their opponents.
Hancock was named Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four after two breakout performances. The transfer from George Mason dropped 20 much needed points in the national semifinal against Wichita State, before adding another 22 off the bench in Monday’s title game.