Atlanta, GA – The Louisville Cardinals, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament’s number one overall seed when the “Big Dance” began, lived up to the hype with a stirring 82-76 win over Michigan to win the national championship Monday night before a record crowd of 74,326 inside the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
Louisville (35-5) had to overcome a sensational first half from the most unlikely of stars for Michigan. Freshman back-up guard Spike Albrecht, averaging just 1.8 points per game all season, was forced to play for national “Player of the Year” Trey Burke, who was sidelined with a couple of early fouls. And Albrecht answered with 17 first-half points to give Michigan a 12-point lead late in the half. But Louisville responded with a big 14-3 run late in the first twenty minutes to only trail 38-37 at the break.
And in the final half, Louisville seized control. It had to do with a physical inside game led by Chane Behanan’s 15 points and 12 rebounds while 6-6 back-up swingman Luke Hancock came off the bench (again) and took over. Hancock scored a career high 22 points, starting guard Peyton Siva added 18 and Louisville captured the school’s 3rd national title to go along with crowns in 1980 and 1986.
For Louisville head coach Rick Pitino, it capped an incredible Monday. Earlier in the day, he found out he’d been selected for induction into the Basketball “Hall of Fame” and then, with the win against Michigan, Pitino became the first head coach *ever* to win national titles at two different schools in Division I (including Kentucky in 1996).