- Created on 09 April 2013
(CNN) -- The Louisville Cardinals defeated the Michigan Wolverines, 82-76, to win the NCAA Division I men's basketball championship Monday night in Atlanta.
The showdown was one for the ages, with a dazzling array of airborne theatrics, jaw-dropping dunks and 3-pointers from well behind the line.
The Cardinals surged from a double-digit deficit in the first half to lead during much of the second half and finally clinch the victory.
Louisville Head Coach Rick Pitino said his team was able to top the Wolverines' "absolutely incredible" performance "probably because I have the 13 toughest guys I've ever coached."
The Cardinals played without Kevin Ware, the sophomore guard who suffered one of the most grotesque injuries in college sports while playing Duke on March 31.
During a routine block attempt, Ware landed awkwardly and snapped his right shin, drawing gasps of horror as the bone protruded through his skin.
Ware joined his teammates during the championship trophy presentation on crutches.
"These are my brothers, you know. They got the job done, and I'm so proud of them."
Ware's teammate Luke Hancock was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, helping pull Louisville out of a 12-point hole to lead the Cardinals with 22 points.
"We just went into war right there against a great Michigan team," the junior forward said.
Naismith Trophy winner Trey Burke led a ferocious Michigan squad with 24 points, but it wasn't enough to top No. 1 seed Louisville.
Now, Pitino must live up to a promise he made to his players this season.
"They said, 'If you win the national championship, coach, you're getting a tattoo.' I said, 'Hell yes, I'm getting a tattoo.'"
- Created on 08 April 2013
(AP) – Geno Auriemma shook his head in amazement. With all the incredible players he has coached, he couldn't remember a better effort than the one Breanna Stewart had against Notre Dame.
Not with what was on the line.
The stellar freshman scored a career-high 29 points to go with four blocks and was seemingly everywhere in leading the Huskies back to the national championship game with an 83-65 win over the Fighting Irish - their nemesis of late - on Sunday night.
"Given the stage, and what was at stake I don't know that I've seen any bigger performance," Auriemma said. "I know there's been NCAA tournament games that we've had certain individuals play great, but I don't remember a player having a better game in this environment."
The Huskies will face Louisville in the title game Tuesday night, and it will be an all-Big East affair after the Cardinals rallied to beat California 64-57 in the other semifinal. UConn will be going for its eighth national championship to match Tennessee for the most in women's basketball history.
No team has dominated Auriemma's Huskies the way that the Irish had over the past few seasons. UConn (34-4) had lost the previous two national semifinals to the Irish and dropped three thrilling games this season to their rival.
Stewart and her teammates wouldn't let it happen again, ending the brilliant career of Notre Dame guard Skylar Diggins. She finished her last college game with 10 points, going a dismal 3-for-15 from the field.
"Once you get here you're only going to beat great teams. And the reason Notre Dame has beaten us seven of the last eight times is because they're really, really good," Auriemma said. "For one night, that's what's great about the NCAA tournament, for one night, for just this night, we just needed to be better than them, and we were."
The Huskies built a 10-point halftime lead playing incredible defense and Notre Dame (35-2) could only get within six in the second half as its school record 30-game winning streak came to an end.
The Huskies and Irish have developed the best rivalry in women's basketball over the past few seasons, and this game might have been the final chapter between the two with Notre Dame headed to the Atlantic Coast Conference next season.
Two years ago, the Huskies won the first three meetings before Notre Dame shocked them in the national semifinals. Notre Dame had won seven of the previous eight meetings before Sunday night and this one, for once, started slowly. Notre Dame went nearly 7 1/2 minutes without a field goal, missing 14 consecutive shots, and neither team led by more than four points for the first 16 minutes.
But trailing 26-25 with 3:44 left in the half, UConn started to take over. Bria Hartley, who has struggled all season while recovering from an ankle injury she suffered over the summer, was the spark. The junior guard started the spurt with a 3-pointer and added a nifty pullup moments later to make it 32-26.
After Notre Dame scored to pull within four, Morgan Tuck put back a miss and Stewart hit a 3-pointer. A Kelly Faris layup with 3.9 seconds left capped the burst and made it 39-29 at the break.
Diggins was 0-for-6 from the field in the first half as the Huskies harassed her all over the court. She scored the Irish's first two points on free throws and didn't have another point until getting a steal early in the second half and converting it for the easy layup to make it 42-35. The two-time All-American tried to do everything she could to rally her team, twice chasing down Hartley on the break to block her shot, but her shots weren't falling and her team was falling behind.
UConn led 50-43 with 12:22 left before Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Stewart hit back-to-back 3s to give the Huskies their biggest lead of the game.
Notre Dame wasn't done, their star freshman Jewell Loyd scoring five points during a 9-2 run to get the Irish within 61-55. That was as close as they could get as Stewart and UConn scored the next seven points to seal the victory.
"Notre Dame is a really good team and they make runs like that,'' Stewart said. "It's how we answer. We went on a run after they cut it to six."
Stewart was the most heralded freshman coming into the season, but struggled through the middle part of the year. But ever since the Big East tournament she's really been on a roll.
The 6-foot-4 budding star had 16 points in the loss to the Irish for the conference title and earned most outstanding player of the Bridgeport regional.
"It was really impressive to have a freshman have that type of game," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. "To come into the Final Four and play with such confidence. You don't expect a freshman to rise to the occasion like that, phenomenal performance for her."
The loss ended an incredible season for Notre Dame, which lost only to Baylor before Sunday night. It also left Diggins without a national championship. She accomplished nearly everything else in her stellar career at the school, including helping her Irish turn around their rivalry against the Huskies.
Diggins said she spoke with Auriemma after the loss.
"Don't let this define my career,"' she said he told her, and that "I've done more for women's basketball than some people have done who have won four championships."
"He just told me I was a good player," she said. "You respect that coming from such a good coach."
- 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
(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
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.