- Created on 08 April 2013
(AP) – The more Louisville extends its remarkable run, the more coach Jeff Walz wants to make sure his Cardinals enjoy every moment.
As long as they have one more upset in them for the NCAA championship game.
The upstart Cardinals got 18 points – all on 3-pointers – from Antonita Slaughter and they methodically clawed back from a 10-point halftime deficit to beat California 64-57 on Sunday night in the NCAA semifinals.
For a team that has beaten Baylor, Tennessee and now the second-seeded Golden Bears, a little celebration was in order.
"We're going to go on Bourbon Street," said Walz, whose team has one last practice Monday before Tuesday night's title game. "I''ll tell the kids, as long as they're back by 2, we're OK."
Bria Smith scored 17 on 6-of-7 shooting for the fifth-seeded Cardinals (29-8), who became the first team seeded lower than fourth to win a Final Four game. The result ensures an all-Big East Conference final in the league's last season in its current form: Louisville will play Connecticut, which beat Notre Dame 83-65, one night after the Louisville men's team plays Michigan for the championship.
The Cardinals are the 10th school to have both basketball teams reach the Final Four in the same season. Only UConn won both titles in the same season, back in 2004.
"The way I look at it, I think the men are trying to feed off of our success," Walz said with a smirk before adding on a serious note that he'd received word from Atlanta that the Louisville men "were in the hotel lobby jumping up and down and cheering for us."
Layshia Clarendon scored 17 for Cal (32-4), which had won the Spokane Region as a second seed. Gennifer Brandon added 12 for the Golden Bears and Brittany Boyd added 10 points.
"Credit Louisville, which obviously has been really hot," Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. "They outfought us in the second half."
It was the third straight upset by Louisville, which had to beat defending national champion Baylor and the powerful Lady Vols just to get to the Big Easy. They will need to summon one more to win it all. Not that they're worried about it.
"No one expects us to be here," Slaughter said. "No one expects us to be in the championship game. Just come together as a team and win as a team."
Shoni Schimmel, who had been one of the stars of the tournament, struggled early for Louisville, but finished with 10 points, including a clutch transition pull-up that gave Louisville a 57-54 lead with 2:06 left.
Clarendon responded with a left win 3 of her own to tie it, but Sara Hammond, playing with four fouls for the last 7:20, gave the Cardinals the lead for good with a strong move inside as she was fouled. Suddenly, Cal was forcing desperate 3s and not hitting them.
After shooting 58.6 percent (17-of-29) in the first half, Cal shot only 30 percent (9-of-30) in the second, negating the Bears' 38-26 advantage in rebounds.
"In the first half we got out a lot on the run. We didn't get a chance to run at all (in the second half) because we weren't getting stops," Clarendon said. "We made a lot of mistakes. It's not like we played somebody who was too good and just flat out beat us."
On Saturday night, the Louisville's men's team had to erase a 12-point second-half deficit against Wichita State, so the women didn't need much inspiration when they went into halftime trailing 37-27. They came out and quickly narrowed their deficit with a 7-0 run that began with Schimmel's 3. Smith added a mid-range jumper and Hammond scored inside to make it 37-34.
Cal was back up 47-39 when Clarendon spun into the lane for a pull-up jumper, but the Cardinals then scored the next seven points, starting with Slaughter's deep 3 and ending with Jude Schimmel's free throws that made it as close as 47-46.
The Cardinals finally pulled back into the lead when Hammond's free throws made it 53-52 with 3:40 left.
"We come out, we executed perfectly to start the second half," Walz said. "Once we took the lead, I could see it in our kids' eyes, the excitement, 'Hey, we can do this, we're going to do this.'
"We're playing our best basketball at the end of the year and that's all that matters,'' Walz added. "We're figuring out a way to pull them out.''
Before tip-off, Walz had the relaxed look of a coach who had been there before, which of course he had in 2009, when Louisville climbed out of a 12-point hole to beat Oklahoma State in the national semifinals before falling to Connecticut in the title game. He walked over to the Cal bench for a friendly chat with Gottlieb, giving her a hug before he walked back toward his bench, and then went across the court to welcome some fans in the front row.
Walz's team also appeared more composed in the first few minutes, racing to an 8-2 lead with the help of Slaughter's first 3 and a pair of layups by Smith. Smith's third basket inside the first five minutes gave Louisville a 10-6 lead, then Cal started to look more comfortable.
Talia Caldwell's putback marked the beginning of a 12-1 run, capped by Clarendon's transition jumper that gave the Golden Bears an 18-11 lead.
Jude Schimmel's 3 got Louisville as close as 25-22 midway through the half, but the Cardinals had trouble keeping pace while Shoni Schimmel, their leading scorer, missed six of her first seven shots.
Cal, which had won with strong rebounding all season, also controlled the game in that department, 23-11 overall and 8-3 in offensive rebounds in the first half. Complicating matters for Louisville was that Hammond, their leading rebounder (6.5 per game), sat out most of the half with two fouls.
Photo Coutesy of NCAA.com
Louisville forward Monique Reid (#33) shoots over California forward Reshanda Gray (#21) during the first half of semifinal action in the women’s Final Four at the New Orleans Arena. Louisville’s men’s and women’s teams advanced to this year’s NCAA championship making, it the 10th school to have both basketball teams reach the Final Four in the same season. UConn was the last to do it back in 2004.
- Created on 08 April 2013
Marty Blake, the NBA's longtime director of scouting, died Sunday, according to published reports. He was 86 years old.
Blake worked in the NBA for more than 50 years and has been called by many the "Godfather of scouting.'' The NBA said Blake died in Alpharetta, Ga., but didn't provide a cause of death.
Blake was general manager of the Hawks franchise before spending more than 35 years as the league's director of scouting. Commissioner David Stern said the NBA would "forever be indebted to him.''
Hawks President of Basketball Operations and General Manager Danny Ferry released the following statement in regard to Blake's death:
"On behalf of the entire Hawks organization, I would like to extend my condolences to the family and friends of Marty Blake. As the General Manager of the Milwaukee, St. Louis and Atlanta Hawks from 1954 to 1970, including his guidance of the Hawks to the 1958 NBA Championship, and as the NBA's Director of Scouting for over 35 years, Marty's innumerable contributions to the Hawks and the NBA will never be forgotten."
NBA Commissioner David Stern also released a statement on Blake's passing, writing:
"Marty began his lifetime of service to basketball at a time when the league was still in its infancy. His work as a general manager and then as director of scouting for the NBA first helped the teams to understand the value of scouting. Marty's dedication not just to the NBA, but to basketball was extraordinary and we will forever be indebted to him.''
- Created on 08 April 2013
Baggy shorts, bald heads and black socks – the final remaining images of the last Michigan men's basketball team to make it to the NCAA National Championship game.
Hard to believe it was 20 years ago when a group of Wolverine sophomores, "the Fab Five," reached their second consecutive NCAA championship game, only to lose to North Carolina 77–71. The title game will be forever etched in basketball history for Chris Webber's infamous "timeout," a play resulting in a technical foul since Michigan had no timeouts remaining, leaving the Tar Heels of North Carolina to ice the game on the free throw line.
The "Fab Five," a nickname given to the 1991 Michigan recruiting class, consisted of shooting guard Jimmy King, small forwards Ray Jackson and Jalen Rose and power forwards Juwan Howard and Chris Webber, many of whom considered the greatest class ever recruited.
As freshmen, the Fab Five changed the game of college basketball forever with their on and off the court antics, demeanor, style of play and boldness as underclassmen. The five reached the big dance as freshmen in 1992 losing to Duke 71–51, then again the next year to UNC.
The Fab Five never won a championship, but another young Michigan team has risen from the depths of disappointment hoping to reclaim what once should have been theirs two decades ago on Monday night in the Georgia Dome.
"The biggest challenge with Michigan: They were a top-10 team all year, and their freshman center was just learning," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim told ESPN before their 61-56 loss to the Wolverines in the National Semifinal Saturday night. "Now he's there and at an unbelievable level. So that's a big difference with their team."
"They have, arguably, the best point guard in the country in Trey Burke, and then for their center (Mitch McGary) to be playing on this level makes them very, very difficult because they've gone from a top-10 team to a top-four team in the last two or three weeks -- and a very difficult offensive team to play against," Boeheim added.
Current Michigan sophomore guard Trey Burke was only 16 months old the last time Michigan was in the NCAA final. Burke, who attended middle school in Atlanta, was named a first-team AP All-American, Michigan's first since Chris Webber in 1993.
"It's surreal, it's a dream come true," said Burke. "We understand we have unfinished business. This was one of our goals, to get to Atlanta and compete for a national championship. Now that we're here, we just have to take full advantage of it, just be focused."
Michigan was the youngest team entering the NCAA Tournament of 68 teams, with a rotation of six freshmen, one sophomore, but arguably had the nation's best backcourt in Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., with a trio of three freshmen, Nik Stauskas, McGary and Glenn Robinson III rounding the starting lineup.
Michigan Head Coach John Beilein, who may be one of the greatest coaches in the nation without a national title, is cherishing the moment.
"We're so proud. I am so proud. But the university I know is so proud of these young men," said Beilein. "I'm really proud of them. It's certainly a great moment for them and our university. I know everybody at Ann Arbor, the Michigan brand all over the world is very happy."
The young Wolverines now face basketball powerhouse and the number one tournament seed over all, the Louisville Cardinals, (34-5) who fought of an upset bid from this year's Cinderella team, the Wichita State Shockers, 72-68.
"Playing for the title is what we've been working for all season long, this team made a lot of sacrifices to get to this point," said Hardaway Jr., son of former NBA All-Star Tim Hardaway. "We're just going to try to do a great job of containing Louisville and make sure we play Michigan basketball."
Monday night's championship final will be an up-tempo game with Louisville pressing where Syracuse's 2-3 full court defense failed against Michigan. The Wolverines will look to continue the success of the pick and roll offense, but the game will be a battle between guards Burke and Peyton Siva of Louisville.
"Last year when we played Kentucky, we played 'em tough; it was a tied game at one point," said Siva. "We couldn't get over that hump. This year we've made our run and we stuck with it. For me it's been a great run, long journey, a lot of ups and downs. I wouldn't trade it for the world."
"Every day I treat it like it was my last game," Siva added. "Monday, it definitely is. It would be great to go out on a win. I know my team and I will be ready tomorrow. We just got to go out there and play our hardest."
Michigan has tried several times over the past twenty years to return to the ship that the Fab Five once sailed on. Former head coaches Brian Ellerbe and Tommy Amaker could not do it, so now all eyes are on Beilein.
This young group of Wolverines may actually be more talented than the Fab Five. The 1993 Wolverines were a regional No. 1 seed entering the tournament, beating a No.16 seed, a No. 9 seed, a No. 12 seed, a No. 7 seed and then No. 1 seeded Kentucky in the Final Four en-route to the championship.
Beilein's team entered this year's tournament seeded fourth. They defeated a No. 13 seed, a No. 5, a No. 1, a No. 3, and most recently four seed Syracuse on Saturday night. The Fab Five are already in the record books, but Monday, Beilein and his team will look forward towards a feat that the legendary group before him could never do, win it all.
- Created on 08 April 2013
For the 75th Anniversary of March Madness, the NCAA brought the Division II and III men's championship games to Atlanta in conjunction with this year's Division I Final Four.
Amherst College (Mass.) defeated Mary Hardin-Baylor (Texas) 87-70 for the Division III title Sunday in the Philips Arena, with Drury University (Missouri) rallying from a 17-point deficit to defeat Metro State Univ. (Colo.) 74-73 for the Division II title afterwards.
The games were free of charge and open to the public, bringing in a crowd of 7,000 plus fans.
"Well, obviously when you're a kid growing up, the only thing you want to do as a basketball player is play in the NBA, that's what I wanted to do for as long as I can remember," said Amherst senior guard Willy Workman. "So when I heard it was going to be played in Atlanta, and it was going to be at Philips Arena, I was overjoyed and we set our minds that we were going to get here and play in this arena."
The Lord Jeffs of Amherst College (30-2) finished their season on a 24-game winning streak. Amherst won the D-III national title back in 2007 with the same record under head coach David Hixon, who completed his 36th season at the school.
Drury (31-4) also closed out the season on a hot streak, winning 23 straight games en-route to its first championship.
- Created on 07 April 2013
The Louisville Cardinals may have entered Saturday's NCAA semifinal basketball game at the Georgia Dome with more experience than the Wichita State squad – this season's Cinderella team – but it wasn't apparent in the early going.
It took the entire first half and much of the second for Louisville to commandeer the lead, having to erase a 12-point second half deficit to claim a 72-68 win over the Shockers and advance to the Monday night's NCAA Championship game against Michigan.
Michigan defeated Syracuse in the second Final Four semifinal battle, 61-56.
The Cardinals, playing in their second consecutive Final Four tournament, missed their first three field goal attempts – all 3-pointers – and their first four free throws, while committing two turnovers, allowing the Shockers to gain an early 8-0 lead.
Wichita State came out fast and furious and managed to stay just one step ahead of Louisville, taking a 26-25 lead into halftime. But the call for a full-court press by Louisville coach Rick Pitino enabled his team to stay within striking distance, and just inside the second half, Louisville tied the game at 27-all.
But the Shockers would not blink.
WSU went on an 18-7 tear to take their biggest lead of the game. At 13:36, Cleanthony Early hit a 3 to put WSU up by 12, 47-35.
"We saw it was a winnable game," said WSU center Ehimen Orukpe. "We were up and we were enthusiastic...but we made a couple of plays that, you know, the turnovers. The press caught us."
"I don't know if they took us for granted or overlooked us, but I felt like we jumped on them early," said freshman guard Fred VanVleet. "...we came out aggressive and got out to an early lead.
But in the end, experience trumped adrenaline, particularly down the stretch.
Louisville guard Russ Smith, recovering from those four missed free throws early on, went on to tally 11 points in the first half, and another 10 in the second for a team-best 21 points, while junior reserve Luke Hancock contributed 20 points off the bench to help ignite the Cardinals comeback. Hancock and forward Chane Behanan combined for 18 points during the takeover, including two 3-pointers.
"We had to win it with our second unit, but he [Luke Hancock] is not a second unit player. He is probably the best offensive player we have," commented Pitino.
"Luke is tremendous. If you saw him in practice, you wouldn't be surprised by his performance. I'm so happy he had the game of his life," Smith added.
Tim Henderson began the rally by hitting a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to nine with 13 minutes remaining. Before long the Cards had chipped away at the lead. Meanwhile, Wichita State was making it easy for its opponent by committing six turnovers during a 4 1/2-minute span to relinquish the lead.
Carl Hall and VanVleet had back-to-back turnovers and a steal and layup from Smith gave Louisville its first lead of the game at, a brief 60-58 hold.
"We understand at this time and its point in the season it will be a fight the whole game," VanVleet added. "It came down to a couple of possessions. I didn't take care of the ball like I should've and things just didn't go our way."
Hall then countered with a layup to tie the game at 60. But Behanan's tip-in at the 3:00 mark gave Louisville the lead for good. Smith then redeemed himself on the line by making four free throws to seal the win.
Defensively, the Cards were eventually able to neutralize WSU's early momentum with the press, despite going scoreless themselves for almost five minutes.
Louisville's early offensive difficulties lasted 5:46, until Smith hit his team's first field goal on a layup to break the drought.
On the other end, the Shockers were able to reduce Louisville's run tendencies by holding the Cards to two fast-break points through much of the second period.
WSU's Early led all scorers with 24 points while pulling down 10 rebounds. Teammate Malcolm Armstead – averaging 15.5 points per game in tournament play – was held to two points.
(Photo: Louisville's Russ Smith drives by two defenders during Saturday's victory over Wichita State. Photo Credit: Darrell Walker)