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Louisville’s reaction to Ware’s leg not surprising, but still impressive

Mar 31, 2013, 8:51 PM EDT

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“All he’s saying is ‘win the game’ while the bone is popping out of his skin.”

According to Louisville head coach Rick Pitino, that’s what Atlanta native Kevin Ware told his teammates as he was lying on his back on the sidelines, the bottom of his right leg snapped in half, what could very well be a career-ending injury.

“Bring Kevin home.”

That’s what Pitino told his team during every timeout, an effort to get Louisville to take that next step closer to a national title, which is being played in Ware’s back yard at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

And that’s exactly what they did, beating the Duke Blue Devils — who may very well have been the best team left in this tournament, other than Louisville — in impressive fashion, 85-63.

MORE: Ware undergoes successful surgery on leg

But what made this win so impressive stretches far beyond just how good Louisville’s defense looked or just how dominant Russ Smith and Peyton Siva have been over the last three weeks or just how terrifying the 17-2 run that the Cardinals put on Duke in the second half must be for Wichita State, their opponent in the Final Four.

“The bone’s 6 inches out of his leg and all he’s yelling is, `Win the game, win the game,”‘ Pitino said afterward. “I’ve not seen that in my life. … Pretty special young man.”

MORE: Twitter telling you the story of Ware’s injury

What’s impressive is that they were able to do all of that after watching their teammate get wheeled off the court on a stretcher; after the stars of the team were sobbing on the court during the game; after watching their head coach get moved to tears and their bench players vomit on the sideline.

Look, players understand that people get injured in sports. They are not only tough, but the best have a short memory and the ability to compartmentalize. They can focus on the game at hand while dealing with all kinds of distractions: problems at home, a girlfriend that dumped them, vile chants from students sections, the immense pressure of performing in front of 40,000 people with millions more watching at home.

So in a sense, it’s not surprising that the best team in the country was able to get back into the game mentally. There’s a reason that the Cardinals are as good as they are.

MORE: Doctor calls injury a ‘freak accident’

But think about how you felt watching that injury on TV. Now think about how people in the stands felt watching that injury. Now think about how it must have felt to be someone in the program — a teammate, a friend, a coach — and see one of your on with their career flashing before their eyes. Imagine seeing someone you love lying on their back with the bottom half of their leg dangling, held on by their skin, and a leg bone sticking out four or five inches.

Think how shook you would be.

And then imagine having to immediately start playing a basketball game for the right to go to the Final Four.

“We won this for him,” Pitino said. “We were all choked up with emotion for him. We’ll get him back to normal. We’ve got great doctors, great trainers. We talked about it every timeout, `Get Kevin home.”‘

At this point, it’s not surprising to see Adrian Peterson rip off a 70 yard touchdown run while barreling over three defenders or to see LeBron James dribble through a defense before nearly hitting his head on the rim while dunking over a seven-footer.

But that doesn’t make those accomplishments any less impressive.

The same should be the case here.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

  1. ebrownwareagle - Mar 31, 2013 at 9:05 PM

    Saw it Live… My Heart goes out to the young man!

  2. mnfan2013 - Mar 31, 2013 at 9:39 PM

    I’m not a Louisville fan but omg ….. what a nasty injury to a young talented man . And to tell his team to win while in such pain . What to go Cardinals … downed Duke way to go !

  3. lamontjoe - Mar 31, 2013 at 9:46 PM

    Glad L’Ville overcame the shock. Prayers to Kevin Ware and his family.

  4. ausernamethatisavailable - Apr 1, 2013 at 6:52 AM

    I take the other side. If the injury never happens the game is closer than this. Louisville did not need an emotional lift but they sure got it. Not only did it lift Louisville and how could it not, but duke players knew it too. And I think the mindset of duke was negatively affected bc of it. They knew UL was playing for their guy. I agree this would shake up the average guy, but to borderline professional athletes in this setting I think it makes it easier to focus.

    • florida727 - Apr 1, 2013 at 9:04 AM

      I’m guessing you’ve never played competitive sports at a high level. I have. Your comment is beyond idiotic. As a teammate, your concentration gets shot, not enhanced. You stand at the free throw line and you don’t think about the front of the rim like you were taught as a fourth-grader. You’re thinking about your teammate being in an ambulance on his way to major reconstructive surgery for what very well might end his career. And those thoughts NEVER leave your mind as the game progresses. In fact, the only thing you can think of is getting the game over so you can go to the hospital to see how your friend, your teammate, is doing. There’s a reason why you got nothing but thumbs-downs, sport.

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