ATLANTA — Louisville coach Rick Pitino began the day with the formal announcement of his induction into the Hall of Fame, and he ended it by carving out a place in basketball history as the first coach to win NCAA titles with two different schools.
The top-seeded Cardinals trailed by 12 points in the first half, but Luke Hancock came off the bench to score 14 of his 22 points in a game-turning 16-5 run before halftime, and the Cardinals went on to an 82-76 victory over Michigan on Monday night at the Georgia Dome. Pitino’s first title came in 1996 with Kentucky, and he picked up the second on his seventh trip to the Final Four.
Louisville (35-5) got an outstanding performance from point guard Peyton Siva, who had 14 of his 18 points in the second half and added six rebounds and five assists, and forward Chane Behanan had 15 points and 12 rebounds. Michigan (31-8) was led by consensus national player of the year Trey Burke with 24 points and got 17 from sub Spike Albrecht and 12 each from Tim Hardaway Jr. and Glenn Robinson III.
By halftime, it certainly appeared a topsy-turvy season and an NCAA Tournament full of upsets had, in the end, identified the two best teams. No. 1 overall seed Louisville, which had won 18 of its previous 19 games, again fell behind early as Burke scored Michigan’s first seven points, but the Cardinals managed to tie it.
Burke had to go to the bench early with a foul, and that’s when the 5-11 freshman Albrecht entered the game and immediately lit it up. He was 4-for-4 from three-point range and totaled a career-high 17 points in the first half as the Wolverines built a 35-23 lead. Michigan coach John Beilein inserted Burke back into the game, but he picked up his second foul and sat the final 11:09 of the half.
The Cardinals weren’t shooting very well, especially leading scorer Russ Smith, who had four first-half points and shot 1-for-9, and that stifled the effectiveness of their press. They also had trouble going inside against beefy 6-10 Wolverines freshman Mitch McGary.
So Hancock, who was named most outstanding player of the Final Four, took matters into his own hands much as he did in Louisville’s comeback from a 12-point, second-half deficit in its semifinal win over Wichita State. The Cards put the ball in Hancock’s hands on four straight possessions, and he knocked down four straight threes to cut the deficit to 36-35.
Then Albrecht lost the ball in a scrum, Siva scooped it and led a fast break that ended with a Gorgui Dieng dunk that gave the Cardinals their first lead at 37-36. Michigan’s Robinson hit a pair of foul shots to restore a 38-37 Wolverines halftime lead, but suddenly, it was a vastly different game.
The teams picked up right where they left off in the second half as there were four lead changes and one tie in the first five possessions. As the game entered the final minutes, it became a duel between the point guards, Siva and Burke. Siva scored eight of 13 Louisville points at one stretch as the Cards built a 67-62 lead.
The last basket in that span was an alley-oop dunk by Siva. Burke instantly matched Siva with an alley-oop flourish of his own, and a couple of possessions later, Burke blocked Siva’s layup attempt at the rim but was called for a foul, prompting deafening boos from Michigan fans in the championship game record crowd of 74,326. Siva made both to start a 9-1 burst that gave Louisville its biggest lead at 76-66 when Hancock buried his fifth three-pointer in as many attempts and gave a victory fist pump.