Louisville Rallies Once More to Claim Championship
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You hear it a thousand times. It's not how you start, but how you finish.
There were two stong finishes last night. The Big East wrapped up its first incarnation by producing another national champion. And of course, it was one of their regular-season powers, Louisville, coming from behind again, this time at the expense of the Michigan Wolverines, 82-76.
The Big Ten challengers came out on fire behind Spike Albrecht -- he got the nickname from his dad so he'd sound like a rugged dude -- had 17 points in the first half to belie his season average of 2.2 points per game. The Wolverines raced to a 12-point first half lead, but the Cardinals didn't panic. As they did in their victory over Wichita State in the semi-final, Louisville slowly began to peck away (as Cardinals would) at the lead with explosive plays that shook Michigan to its core.
By the half, it was tied at 40-40 and remained close for a while in the second half, but Louisville's onslaught was too much for the Wolverines. Given Michigan's own impressive athleticism, that's saying something, but not saying enough. The Cardinals, behind Peyton Siva, would not be denied.
Siva racked up 18 points, six rebounds, and five assists while teammate Luke Hancock notched 22 points off the bench.
"I had the 13 toughest guys I've ever coached," Louisville head coach Rick Pitino said. "I'm just amazed they could accomplish everything we put out there."
Pitino, who was also inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame Monday, became the first head coach to win national championships at two different schools, which most likely did not sit all that well with Kentucky fans.
What a difference a year makes! Last season, it was the Kentucky Wildcats winning their first national championship in almost 20 years, and now rival Louisville brings another title home to the Bluegrass State after a 27-year absence.
It's fair, then, to say that Kentucky, like the state of Alabama in football, is at least for now the basketball capital of the world.