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Louisville’s unsung heroes deliver in win over Wichita State

Apr 6, 2013, 8:46 PM EDT

Louisville Cardinals' Hancock and teammate Henderson celebrate near the end of their NCAA men's Final Four basketball game against the Wichita State Shockers in Atlanta Reuters

ATLANTA — On a team that includes Peyton Siva and Russ Smith, Gorgui Dieng and Chane Behanan, how many people would have guessed that the two most important players for Louisville in its 72-68 win over Wichita State in the Final Four on Saturday would be Luke Hancock and Tim Henderson.

It’s fitting, really.

The Cardinals knocked off the Shockers, a team made up of misfits that have spent their career being under-recruited and looked over, on a night when their two castoffs did the heavy-lifting.

Wichita State looked like they were pulling away. After the Shockers got an offensive rebound off of a missed free throw, Cleanthony Early, who finished with 24 points, buried a three from the left wing to give Gregg Marshall’s club a 47-35 lead. Louisville was rattled. Wichita State had done a terrific job of cutting off penetration and forcing the Cardinals into jump shots, and their struggles on the offensive end of the floor extended onto the defensive end as well.

There was no energy in that Louisville press. They hadn’t forced a turnover in almost 20 minutes of game-time. The Shockers were in complete control.

And then Hancock found Henderson wide-open in the corner for a three. 42 seconds later, after Ehimen Orukpe airballed the front-end of a one-and-one, Smith drew a defender and found Henderson.

Same spot.

Wide open.

Same result.

Henderson’s six points in 42 seconds gave Louisville life. He’s a walk-on. He scored three points in all of Big East play. He’s only set foot on the court because Kevin Ware couldn’t.

“We had a defensive game-plan to just be in the gaps and force them to shoot those shots,” Early said. It worked for the first 27 minutes until Henderson broke through. “He just happened to knock them down.”

From there, it was the Luke Hancock Show. On Louisville’s next two possessions, Hancock sliced through the Wichita State defense, finishing a pair of layups at the rim. It was the first time that Louisville had really found a way to get into the teeth of the Shocker defense.

With 6:45 left in the game, Wichita State finally committed their first turnover of the second half — and first since the 13:04 mark of the first half. In the scramble for the loose ball, Hancock found himself left alone in the corner, burying a three to give the Cardinal’s their first lead since of the second half. Wichita State kept things interesting, trading buckets and never falling behind by more than one possession until Hancock drilled another three with 2:06 left in the game. With six seconds left in the game, Hancock missed a free throw that would have put the Cardinals up by four points, but instead of giving up on the rebound, he forced a jump-ball with Wichita State’s Ron Baker, giving the Cardinals the ball back.

“He didn’t get named captain for nothing before he even played a game for us,” Siva said. “He showed his leadership out there tonight.”

Hancock is a transfer from George Mason. He’s had an up-and-down season as he’s dealt with the recovery from shoulder surgery.

There is always a run coming from Louisville. It’s what their known for. It’s why they’re so successful. Once that press gets going, it snowballs. The Cardinals forced five turnovers in a seven possession stretch at one point, and that just so happened to coincide with their comeback.

But the spark that set the run off didn’t come from any of Louisville’s all-americans or future NBA Draft picks.

It came from a pair of guys that refer to themselves as the zone-busters in practice because of their ability to shoot.

“Tim hits shots all the time,” Hancock said. “It wasn’t shocking for us for him to knock down shots like that.”

He’s more than just a zone-buster now.

He’s a run-starter.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

  1. arrogantnation - Apr 6, 2013 at 8:50 PM

    Wichita State got hosed by that call. Great game nonetheless.

    • ras1tafari - Apr 6, 2013 at 9:10 PM

      You could argue that a similar jump ball situation was NOT called a minute or so earlier; when WS got an and-1 out of a non-call.

    • jjsooner - Apr 6, 2013 at 10:49 PM

      Calls even out over the course of a game. I was only disturbed once about the officiating and it came in the first half when Dieng was called for a foul. He said nothing and the official looked directly at him and glared in a really unprofessional manner. I get it. Make the call but, walk away. Its NOT personal so don’t make it personal. Great game though. Both teams deserved to win. March Madness at its finest!

    • fanofevilempire - Apr 7, 2013 at 7:33 AM

      that bad call changed the game, the ref’s hosed ‘cuse as well on that charge call, why
      do ref’s have to get involved in the outcome.
      everyone by now has heard the Ruch incident.
      the ncaa publicity whore probably wanted to nba dad story to keep rolling, lets see who
      gets the hose in the title game.

  2. badgerbuck - Apr 6, 2013 at 8:54 PM

    Wichita state played a whale of a game tonight,should have won

  3. burningbush66 - Apr 6, 2013 at 9:07 PM

    The ref who made that quick held ball call should be fired. That decided the game instead of the players deciding it. Typical “help the power conference school call” what a fraud.

    • Alex K - Apr 6, 2013 at 10:37 PM

      Or, you know, he made the right call. But, whatevs.

  4. prov1x - Apr 6, 2013 at 9:24 PM

    They were in the double bonus the whole second half…that call shouldn’t have even been an issue if they could make FT’s. Cards played their worst game of tourney and still won. One more to go.

    • jjsooner - Apr 6, 2013 at 10:53 PM

      Yep. One of those teams, in the words of an analyst, is good even when they don’t play good. (or something close to that) :-) Very tough group and great coach.

  5. jdjeffe11 - Apr 6, 2013 at 9:58 PM

    The held ball was questionable but the whole game was ref biased. They call a foul on Wichita state the guy who was intentionally punched in the face by Louisville as well as other horrible fouls called the wrong way. I am not a Wichita state grad or fan. I do like the Missouri valley conference. The refs made every effort to help Louisville win and rob the valley of $1.5mm of tourney payouts. I will boycott this horrible travesty that was swept under the table by CBS refusing to show replays of bad calls per the CBS NCAA contract and not talk about this miscarriage of justice. Wanted to watch the secod game and title game but this crap that CBS and the NCAA pretend is fair is not so I am tuned out. Good luck to the machine that robs kids and then cheats them too.

    • Alex K - Apr 6, 2013 at 10:36 PM

      You mean the one where he had his arm around the players waist and knocked him off balance and while trying to keep his balance he accidentally hit him in the face? That would have been the worst call ever.

      And how was it biased against Wichita St. when they were in the double bonus for 13 minutes of the second half? Those refs sure did a shitty job of calling everything against Wichita…

  6. prov1x - Apr 6, 2013 at 10:03 PM

    Wow.. …. Cue the black helicopters

  7. florida727 - Apr 6, 2013 at 10:22 PM

    With all due respect to the NCAA, I wish these @$$-clowns would quit putting BASKETBALL games inside FOOTBALL stadiums. The shooting background is horrific and it takes away from the quality of the game… all in the interest of stuffing 70,000 butts in seats. Last time Russ Smith went 5 of 12 from the free throw line was in the 3rd freaking grade. And he air-balls a three? Have to go back to 2nd grade for that one. Outside shooting is ruined thanks to the venue. The quality of play declines dramatically after the Elite Eight. I went to an SEC tournament in the Georgia Dome some years back. We were in the 20th row and were so far away from the court it was ridiculous.

    • jjsooner - Apr 6, 2013 at 10:56 PM

      Completely agree. How about an NBA house? Seems smart. That’s what many of these players want to do. Play in an NBA arena. Not the NFL of CFB.

  8. Jeff - Apr 6, 2013 at 10:31 PM

    The cards got lucky

  9. barbeaux - Apr 7, 2013 at 12:34 AM

    Bad calls at the end of a game *do* impact the result of the game…this game, packers/seahawks, etc. it really doesn’t even out after a point. Let them battle it out. Had he gotten more substantial contact with the ball then fine…jump ball. He really didn’t do that.

  10. jdjeffe11 - Apr 7, 2013 at 1:07 AM

    Everyone seems to forget the double foul and change in possetion arrow which Phil Jackson tweeted a profanity about. how can they actually explain that? It plus another same type of bad call and change in reffing caused the game to be changed and butchered.

  11. fanofevilempire - Apr 7, 2013 at 7:39 AM

    the ncaa screwed up the greatest tournament ever with play in games.
    now the refs are involved in the outcome of two final four games, I will
    not watch the entire game rather just check the score. Bogus title game.

    The Tournament has died!

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