INDIANAPOLIS -- A quick look at Louisville’s 85-63 win over Duke in the Midwest Regional final.
Overview: The word adversity gets tossed around so much that it’s almost lost its meaning. A foul is adversity, a bad call.
Louisville had the real thing. The top seed in the NCAA tournament, squaring off against what many consider to be the other best team in this tournament, had to overcome one of the most gut-wrenching moments in sports to return to the Final Four.
A high-energy, high-intensity game was knocked off its rails with 6:33 left in the first half when Cards backup guard Kevin Ware broke his lower right leg.
Ware, who was racing to try to block a Tyler Thornton 3-pointer, landed wrong and crumbled to the ground in front of his own bench. His teammates were overcome with emotion. Russ Smith was visibly crying, while Montrezl Harrell and Chane Behanan both fell to the floor, sobbing on their hands and knees.
The players eventually huddled near the free throw line but were summoned to the bench by coach Rick Pitino, who yelled, "Hey, [Kevin] wants to talk to you." The players raced over and gathered over the stretcher. Ware eventually was taken off the court on the stretcher while everybody in the building stood and applauded.
Just as play was about to resume, official Scott Thornley turned to hand the ball to Smith to inbound it and asked, "Are you OK? Ready to go?"
The Cardinals were. Showing a mental toughness that has defined this team, Louisville rolled on a 17-2 run early in the second half to break open the tight game and earn its way back to the Final Four.
Turning point: With the game tied at 42, the Cardinals put together what has become their trademark run -- a commanding 17-2 steamrolling that caught the Blue Devils flat footed. Peyton Siva scored six of those 17, Gorgui Dieng eight.
Key player: Siva. Smith had more points but Siva won this game for the Cardinals. His grit and determination steered Louisville through the emotional roller coaster of Ware’s injury. He scored 16 points, dished out four assists and played his typical swarming defense. He helped hold Seth Curry to just 12 points.
Key stat: 40-28. That’s the points in the paint edge for the Cardinals, who managed just one 3-pointer but still managed to thump Duke. The Blue Devils had to keep the Louisville guards out of the paint and simply could not.
Next: It’s back to the Final Four for the Cardinals, but this time Louisville goes to Atlanta as the favorite, not the underdog. They’ll face the underdog Wichita State in the national semifinals on Saturday.