The first half was nothing like we’ve seen all year long in college basketball. It was up-and-down, run-n-gun, let-it-fly, non-stop action basketball. The refs swallowed their whistles, missed some blatantly obvious calls (including the most evident kicked ball of all time), and let the players play.
Spike Albrecht (real name, Michael), who averaged 1.8 points per game this season, got significant playing time once he displayed his extremely hot hand. He finished 6 of 7 from the field, 4 of 4 from 3, and 1 of 2 from the line for 17 points in the first half. Trey Burke started hot, but picked up two fouls. You would think Coach Beilein would have trusted his point guard to play smart, but clearly Albrecht’s play weighed on his decision. This decision proved questionable after Louisville closed a 12 point deficit in relatively quick fashion.
The Cardinals brought their own sharp-shooter to the event, Luke Hancock (who ended up being the most outstanding player of the Final Four), to lead the first half comeback. He finished 4 of 4 from the field, all 3-pointers, and 4 of 5 from the line for 16 points. He spearheaded the 14-1 run by scoring ALL 14 points to mitigate the deficit to only one going into the half.
The second half was just as exciting, but the shooting cooled down to more of an average rate. Louisville clamped down on defense, forced multiple turnovers in transition and out-played Michigan in the paint.
Chane Behanan ended up having a spectacular second half, finishing with 15 points and pulling down rebound after rebound. He was hungry and could not be stopped. He finished with 13 rebounds many of which were back-to-back on his own misses. He was on a different level than everyone else on the floor.
Gorgui Dieng also made his presence felt in the second half, both scoring and rebounding, after laying a dud against Wichita St. He finished with 8 points and 8 rebounds.
And Peyton Siva played very well himself, finishing with 18 points, 5 assists and 4 steals, as the floor general of the Cardinals.
Michigan was able to match the energy level of the Cardinals, but the shots weren’t falling for them like in the first half. Trey Burke, despite foul trouble, had a really good game finishing with 24 points. However, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Glenn Robinson III, who looked good at times and appeared to have mismatches but weren’t able to exploit those on a consistent basis.
Michigan could not muster enough offense down the stretch despite significant foul trouble for almost every notable Louisville player.
Spike Albrecht never scored another point.
The Louisville Cardinals fell just short a year ago in the Final Four, but made it all right tonight. They were the best team throughout the season, and they were the better team on the court in the national championship.
On the same day that Rick Pitino was elected in the Naismith basketball hall of fame, he becomes the first coach ever to win a national championship at two different schools.
It was a team effort all season long. And tonight it paid off.
Congrats to the Louisville Cardinals!