Louisville needed someone to give them a lift to get past a talented Wichita State squad. They found that someone in Luke Hancock. The senior transfer from George Mason poured in 20 points, including three big three-pointers to help the Cardinals get past the Shockers 72-68. Louisville was down by 12 points with 13:15 left before they made their comeback.
The first half and first part of the second half was played at Wichita State’s pace. The Shockers led 26-25 at the half and expanded their lead to 47-35 at the 13:15 mark. Walk-on Tim Henderson got Louisville back into the game with two back-to-back three-pointers from the corner. Henderson had only scored 16 points the entire year. Wichita State packed the middle on defense and prevented the quick Louisville guards from penetrating. They also didn’t turn the ball over. Their defense held Louisville’s starting frontcourt scoreless in the first half. After four early turnovers they had zero turnovers for the next 24 minutes of play. However, Henderson’s shots helped Louisville pick up the pace on defense, forcing six turnovers the rest of the way. Then Hancock took over. He scored twice on drives, made a big three-pointer to give the Cardinals a 56-55 lead, made another three-pointer to put Louisville up by five and then scored on a subsequent lay-up. Wichita State had one last chance after Hancock missed a free throw. leaving the Cardinals up by three with six seconds left. However Hancock got his hand on the ball after a rebound by Ron Baker giving Louisville the ball back on the alternating possession.
Russ Smith led Louisville with 21 points but had an off day shooting (6-of-17 from the field, 5-of-12 on free throws). Peyton Siva shot worse at 1-of-9 missing many uncontested jumpers. Hancock and Henderson won this game for Louisville. Cleanthony Early was immense for Wichita State with 24 points and 10 rebounds. Malcolm Armstead ran the Shockers offense efficiently against Louisville’s pressure defense (seven assists, three turnovers) but also had an off-day offensively (1-of-10). Louisville (34-5) will need improved offensive outings from Smith and Siva to win the title on Monday night.
Michigan took a 36-25 halftime lead, got sloppy toward the end of the game but escaped with a hard fought 61-56 win over Syracuse. The Wolverines advance to face Louisville for the title Monday night. Michigan worked the Syracuse 2-3 zone about as efficiently as possible in the first half, committing only two turnovers and finding Mitch McGary down low or in the middle of the zone. McGary hit a few shots but more importantly found his teammates for open looks.
Syracuse came back strong in he second half behind C.J. Fair. The Orange got to within three with 6:33 left but James Southerland missed a three-pointer that would have tied the game at 48. Michigan pulled away and led by six with one minute left. They then missed five free throws in the last 1:09 to give the Orange a chance. A Southerland three-pointer cut the lead to 57-56 with 42 seconds left. After Trey Burke hit one of two free throws Brandon Triche was called for a charging foul. Jon Horford missed his second free throw to give Syracuse another chance down by three with 18 seconds left. But Trevor Cooney missed a two-point attempt, Michigan grabbed he rebound and the Wolverines sealed the win.
Michigan won the game despite off games offensively from guards Trey Burke ( 7 points on 1-of-8 shooting), Nik Stauskas, who did not score (0-of-5) and Tim Hardaway Jr. (13 points on 4-of-16 from the field). McGary was the most effective player for the Wolverines, registering his third double-double of the tournament with 10 points, 12 rebounds, and more importantly six assists. Fair led Syacuse with 22 points. Michael Carter-Williams was limited to two points on 1-of-6 shooting and committed five turnovers.