After Wichita State had played an almost perfect game to take a 12-point lead over Louisville in the second half, two unlikely heros emerged. Walk-on Tim Henderson (left in photo) came in and hit two three-pointers to keep Louisville alive, and then Luke Hancock (right in photo) took over from inside and outside. Hancock drove to the hoop and scored with both his left and right, hit jumpers and then saved the game when he grabbed his own missed free throw to tie it up for a jump ball and give Louisville the ball back in the final seconds with a 71-68 lead. Russ Smith then hit a free throw to provide the 72-68 final.
Hancock was the first player to come off the bench and score 20 points in almost four decades, and the combined effort eventually offset an incredible 24-point performance by Cleanthony Early.
Wichita dominated early on, but Louisville fans had seen the Cardinals take a while to destroy opponents during the 14-game winning streak. Despite falling behind 8-0, all seemed fine when Russ Smith stole the ball with 15:02 to play in the first half and laid it in to cut the Wichita State lead to 8-2.
Those who have watched much of Louisville’s 14-game winning streak yawned when Wichita State jumped out to an 8-0 lead. After all, Russ Smith drew three fouls in the first three minutes and Louisville had fallen behind Marquette, Georgetown and Syracuse during the streak and then run them out of the building with pressure.
However, Wichita State did not let Louisville get another steal for 28 minutes, and when Louisville was whistled for 10 fouls in the first nine minutes of the second half it became very risky to keep up their pressure despite trailing 50-43. Smith had three fouls by early in the second half, Louisville kept the pressure up.
Wichita State used superior size and controlled the tempo and great ball protection to control the game and build a 12-point lead. The Shockers even did the one thing we said in the preview could lead to an upset – drew four fouls on Louisville center Gorgui Dieng to get him out of the game.
In short, they played an almost perfect game against Louisville, which begs the question, “How do you beat this team?”
A steal by Smith and layup at the other end with just under five minutes left game them their first two-point lead of the game at 60-58, but the heros tonight were the unlikely par of Hancock and Henderson.