ATLANTA (NCAA) - The Louisville Cardinals beat the Michigan Wolverines on Monday night in front of the largest crowd ever to watch an NCAA Championship game.
Trailing by 12 points in the first half, Louisville’s Luke Hancock drilled four three-balls in a row to lead his team back and the Cardinals, in front of 74,326 fans in the Georgia Dome, beat the Wolverines, 82-76.
Michigan got 24 points from college basketball´s Player of the Year Trey Burke, but there was no stopping Louisville from capturing a third NCAA title and first since 1986.
Hancock was named as the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player.
The Virginia native, who had to sit out last year after transferring from George Mason and be a spectator as Louisville reached the Final Four before falling to Kentucky, ended up a perfect five-of-five from the arc and finished with a team-high 22 points.
Making the night even more special for the sharp-shooting forward, who had 20 points in his team´s narrow win over Wichita State on Saturday, was that his gravely-ill, 70-year-old father was able to attend the game.
"There's really no way to describe how I feel that my dad was here," Hancock said.
"It's hard to put into words.
"I'm so excited that he was here, it just means a lot."
The Cardinals were emotionally charged up for other reasons.
Guard Kevin Ware, who fractured his leg against Duke in the Elite Eight, sat on the bench and watched.
"It was a big motivator, just for the simple fact that Kevin Ware would do anything to be out there," Louisville´s Chane Bahanan said.
"Kevin was a big part of our team and to see him go down like he did was devastating.”
The was plenty of emotion to draw on for Louisville coach Rick Pitino, too.
He had learned earlier in the day that he will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
"This team is one of the most together, toughest, hard-nosed teams," Pitino said.
"We played a great team the other night in Wichita State and got outplayed for about 34 minutes of the game.
"But this team, being down never bothers us. They just come back."
Pitino saluted all of his players, including Gorqui Dieng.
The Senegalese big man has a year of eligibility left but could end up playing next season in the NBA.
"Gorgui was brilliant tonight," Pitino said.
"Six assists. He played terrific.
"I want to encourage all my guys to put their name in the draft, just get the experience of trying out, whether they do it or not, not get an agent.
"Guys like Russ (Smith), Chane, Gorgui. I want them to learn the experience.
"Probably two of them will come back, one may go. They deserve the experience the amount they worked."
Michigan were aiming to win their first title since 1989, when Glenn Rice set an NCAA Tournament scoring record of 184 points.
But it was not to be.
The night belonged to Louisville.
“It doesn’t get any better than this,” Hancock said.