Hancock having a 'blast' helping Cards win

Luke Hancock has been key to the University of Louisville's 12-game winning streak and run to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16. It's Hancock's first season at U of L but it's not his first time in the NCAA Tournament.

University of Louisville junior Luke Hancock is having a blast playing in the NCAA Tournament for the Cardinals.

Hancock had to sit out and watch last season after transferring from George Mason. But this time around, Hancock has been a key for the Cardinals.

In five postseason games, Hancock is averaging 8.6 points and has hit six three-pointers and 15 free throws during the five-game stretch.

"It feels better than watching," Hancock said. "Last year, going to the Final Four was incredible. But I wasn't playing and I wanted to be out there.

"This is so much better. I'm just having a lot of fun."

The 6-foot-6 Hancock is averaging 7.4 points a game this season for the Cardinals. He's hit 18 of 33 three-point field goals in the past 10 games and is hitting 50 percent – 20 of 40 – during the 12-game winning streak.

"With Luke it was just a matter of getting over his injury," U of L coach Rick Pitino said. "His toughness is beyond the norm. He had the worst shoulder injury (trainer) Fred Hina said he has ever seen. He shouldn't be playing now.

"He's the toughest kid I've seen."

Hancock said last week that he's still not 100 percent after the offseason shoulder surgery – he was injured last April in a pickup game.

But that hasn't stopped him from being an integral part of the U of L success this season. He's started eight games, had double figures in 15 games and come on strong in the latter part of the season.

" He's been big for us," assistant coach Kevin Keatts said. "Luke is a guy we always counted on but he just had to get healthy. We knew he could shoot it like he's been doing lately, he just had to get healthy."

Keatts also pointed to his leadership qualities because he's already been through some battles. Hancock hit a three-pointer to win an NCAA Tournament game against Villanova two years ago when he was at George Mason.

"It's big, his experience," Keatts said. "Luke had four years of high school, a prep year, he played at George Mason a couple of years and then had a chance to sit out another year. So, he brings a lot of experience to the table."

Hancock said he's "really happy" that while he's not 100 percent he's starting to feel like he did in high school and while he was at George Mason.

"Being a veteran and a guard, I think that definitely takes some pressure off the younger guys," Hancock said. "It's definitely an advantage. I'm just excited to be back in the tournament we want to keep winning games."

And Hancock wants to do it without incident. After hitting the three-pointer while at George Mason, Hancock came down with food poisoning and missed the next game – a loss to Ohio State.

"I couldn't sit up to watch the game, I never saw it and still haven't seen it," Hancock said. "All I know is that we lost."

But now he has a chance to erase those memories. Hancock, who was named a captain before he ever played a game at U of L, is proving Pitino correct from when he said before the season that he would be one of the team's best players.

"I kept taxing my brain through the years, about somebody he reminded me of and then finally I thought of it – Rick Carlisle," Pitino said. "Rick had the ability to get the ball up the floor against pressure even though he wasn't the fastest guy.

"He was incredibly smart, very, very crafty and Luke is just a really special basketball player. He has all the head fakes to get fouled, then he goes to the line, is a good free-throw shooter and he's always looking up the court. He just has a really high basketball IQ."

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