When University of Louisville sophomore guard Kevin Ware went down with a broken leg last week against Duke, the Cardinals knew others would have to step up in order to reach the goal of a national championship.
On Saturday night, it was a player Ware told earlier this week he was going to have a big game – walk-on Tim Henderson – who came through in a big way.
The junior from Louisville Christian Academy hit 2 of 3 from the field – all three-pointers – and finished with six points and two rebounds to spark the Cardinals in a come-from-behind 72-68 victory over Wichita State in the national semifinals.
"When Kevin went down, he told me, ‘I believe in you. You can step up. I've seen you in practice. I've seen you do this. Just play and just be confident'," Henderson said. "That's what I did; I just took it heart what he said."
Henderson who made a three-pointer to end the Duke game last week was just 4 of 17 from three-point range this season. He was averaging just 3.5 minutes a game coming into the Final Four, scoring 16 points in 25 games.
But against the Shockers, Henderson played 10 minutes spelling both Peyton Siva and Russ Smith at times for the Cardinals.
"Tim is not a surprise to us," junior Stephan Van Treese said. "He does it in practice all the time. He goes against Peyton (Siva) and Russ (Smith) in practice and he holds his own. So, we knew he could do it."
Added injured senior Mike Marra: "He does it every day in practice. It's tough to come off the bench after sitting for 30-45 minutes and then go in and hit some shots, that's what's more amazing to me."
U of L coach Rick Pitino said earlier in the week that "Tim Henderson is going to have to play," and he was in early to give Russ Smith a break.
Henderson played six minutes in the first half and then came in with 13:15 for Smith in the second half and the Cards trailing 47-35.
Luke Hancock drove down the lane and kicked to the left corner with 13:00 left and Henderson drained his first three-pointer. He hit a second with 12:18 left off an assist from Smith to make it 47-41 from exactly the same spot.
"I've been shooting well lately in practice and everything," Henderson said. "I was just shooting it and I felt comfortable out there."
Henderson's two three-pointers sparked the Cardinals and they came right in front of Ware, who was at the end of the bench standing, waving on the crowd as Henderson was doing his thing on the floor.
""It meant everything," Ware said of Henderson. "Tim's been working hard all year. He gets chewed out because he's guarding Peyton and Russ all practice but when he gets his moment, he always does his thing.
"He hit two big three's that we really needed so that was clutch."
"Added Peyton Siva: "Tim's a hometown hero."