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Cardinals stand up for Ward the best way they know how

Updated: 2013-04-10 08:03
By Associated Press in Atlanta, Georgia ( China Daily)

 Cardinals stand up for Ward the best way they know how

Montrezl Harrell of the Louisville Cardinals holds Chane Behanan after they won, 82-76, against the Michigan Wolverines during the NCAA men's title game at the Georgia Dome on Monday in Atlanta. The Cardinals overcame a horrific injury to Kevin Ware, who showed up to cut the final strand of the net after the win. Streeter Lecka / Agence France-Presse

Badly injured player helps cut net after Louisville downs Michigan

The last of the Louisville players to get the scissors, Kevin Ware stood in front of the basket as it was lowered to him. Grinning from ear to ear, he cut what remained of the net.

"It's not about me, I've never been that type of guy," Ware said. "These are my brothers. They got the job done."

They always do.

A team that found inspiration in Ware's horrible broken leg wasn't about to let a little thing like an off night by its biggest star, Russ Smith, keep it from cutting down the nets. Luke Hancock made four consecutive 3-pointers in the first half, and Peyton Siva and Chane Behanan had monster second halves to lead the top-seeded Cardinals to their third national title and first since 1986 on Monday night with an 82-76 victory over Michigan.

"I'm so happy for our team," said Hancock, named the tournament's most outstanding player. "I'm so happy that multiple guys got to contribute on this great run."

And every one of them was in on the celebration.

Siva leaped off the floor to hug his family when the final buzzer sounded. Behanan picked up two cheerleaders and, with one in each arm, carried them to the mosh pit that quickly formed at center court.

In the most touching moment of all, Ware hobbled onto the court for the final seconds of the game. He had urged his teammates to "just go win" after his tibia snapped during the Midwest Regional final, and he made good on his promise to join them when they cut down the nets.

Cardinals stand up for Ward the best way they know how

"Kevin Ware would do anything to be out there. We were just all locked in for him, and also for ourselves and our coaching staff," said Behanan, Ware's best friend on the team. "Kevin was a big part of this team, and to see him go down was devastating. It was a big motivator for us."

Hancock finished with 22 points, including a perfect 5 for 5 from 3-point range. Siva had 14 of his 18 points in the second half, and Behanan had 11 of his 12 rebounds in the second half. Behanan also chipped in 15 points for Louisville (35-5), which finished the season on a 16-game winning streak.

"We beat a great basketball team probably because I have the 13 toughest guys I have ever coached," said Rick Pitino, who became the first coach to win titles with two different schools hours after he was elected to the Naismith Hall of Fame.

Pitino, who sets the fashion trend among college coaches with his designer suits, now has to get a tattoo after promising his team early in the year he'd get inked if it won the title.

"I think that was our biggest motivating, getting coach P a tattoo," Siva said.

Louisville wasn't exactly deep before Ware snapped his tibia in the Midwest Regional final, and Pitino candidly said his absence was going to cause "problems" for the Cardinals. Having Smith revert to his wild and "Russdiculous" ways after being so brilliant in the first five games of the tournament didn't help matters.

Smith began the night 1 of 10, and finished with nine points on 3-of-16 shooting. It was his worst performance since the Big East title game, and well below the 25 points he'd averaged in the first five games of the tournament.

"Russ was taking the same shots he normally takes, they just weren't falling," Siva said. "Tonight just wasn't his night."

But adversity means nothing to the Cardinals.

Ware's horrific injury would have left most teams reeling. But he became Louisville inspiration instead, urging his teammates to "just go win the game" to get to the Final Four, then accompanying his teammates to his hometown of Atlanta three days later.

(China Daily 04/10/2013 page24)

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