In the end, the Cardinals’ ability to remain relentless for 40 minutes made them the national champions.
They wore down Michigan with their pressure and pounded the Wolverines on the boards in the second half, outrebounding them 20-10 in the final 20 minutes. . .
Louisville’s players beat a superb young team that never backed off until the final buzzer of the season finally sounded shortly before midnight.
As good as the Wolverines were, the Cardinals were better.
And they weren’t even breathing hard at the finish.
Alex Prewitt writes that the closely contested game was a relief for fans of a struggling sport:
Decry the slop and lambast the ugly. Point to the record-low scoring and interruptive whistles that supposedly dragged this college basketball season through the mud. The sport needed fixing, many claimed, until Louisville and Michigan brought their hammers to the Georgia Dome and patched those holes right up, at least for one night.
Louisville reserve player Luke Hancock played a remarkable game as his father, who is gravely ill, watched from the stands:
Hancock dug deep and his 22-point performance earned him Most Outstanding Player honors, making him the first non-starter to earn that honor in NCAA tournament history. He hit 5-of-5 three-pointers, a perfect mark that has never been accomplished in a title game. All with Dad watching.
In Louisville, the team’s supporters responded with a citywide, all-night party, the Associated Press reports. Louisville’s women’s basketball team plays Connecticut tonight for the championship. Sally Jenkins writes that the team is relaxed, despite the high stakes:
They are the lowest-seeded team to reach a women’s final, yet their kids are as bonelessly loose as rag dolls. It’s an attitude they clearly adopt from [coach Jeff] Walz, who in the semifinals strolled the sideline casually in his open-necked red-checkered shirt, as if he were taking orders for veal chops in a cheap family-style restaurant — “an Italian tablecloth,” U-Conn. Coach Geno Auriemma called it.