WARE JOINS THE HUDDLE
University of Louisville sophomore guard Kevin Ware sat just past the end of the bench – broken right leg propped up on a chair – for most of the NCAA Tournament Final Four game against Wichita State.
But when the Cardinals were down in the second half, Ware said "I couldn't sit there any more. Fred (Hina) told me to keep my leg propped up, but I'll sit in the hotel with my leg up for a few hours."
Ware said he needed to be with his team.
"Fred really couldn't figure out how I got up," Ware said. "I honestly wasn't thinking. I was just trying to get to the huddle to be around my team."
Ware eventually made it on the floor, had his crutches handed to him and made his way into the huddle. U of L senior point guard Peyton Siva joked that, "I thought he was checking in for me."
"To have Kevin there, it meant a lot," Siva said.
Ware spent the rest of the game at his seat, standing up several times including just before Tim Henderson hit his first three-pointer.
"I just kept telling the guys, ‘Defense is going to win this game'," he said.
Ware had another special moment at the end of the game. When Luke Hancock was at the free-throw line with 8.8 seconds left, Ware couldn't watch.
He buried his face in his jersey with equipment manager Vinny Tatum sitting right by his side. Hancock made the first one to give the Cardinals a 71-68 lead and Tatum tapped Ware on the shoulder. But he never looked.
Only after Hancock missed the second free throw but then caused the jump ball did Ware look up, smile and pump his fist.
"Honestly, I was just saying a prayer for Luke," Ware said. "When I went down with my injury, the first person by my side was Luke. I was just down there saying a prayer. He made his first free throw and Vinny was tapping me on my shoulder like, alright, we're good now. But he missed his second and he got the jump ball call. I kind of feel like that's when God really heard me."
PITINO HITS THE EXACTA
U of L was down at halftime but when Rick Pitino walked back to the floor, radio sideline reporter Jim Gray delivered some good news.
Pitino's horse – Goldencents – had just won the Santa Anita Derby and punched his ticket to the Kentucky Derby.
"Great, but I can't put him in," Pitino responded.
It was a crazy exacta for Pitino, who is expected to be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame on Monday. The coach has dabbled in the horse industry for years and is co-owner of the 3-year-old.
Goldencents was No. 5 in the race and is now one of the favorites for the Derby, which is next month at Churchill Downs.
It was only fitting in the race after Pitino's horse won, a horse named Points Off The Bench was the winner. U of L outscored Wichita State 34-9 in bench points.
A FEW LEFTOVERS
*U of L has now won a school-record 34 games. The victory gave the Cardinals a 34th win and broke the old mark of 33 set by the 1980 and 2005 squads.
*U of L will be playing in the national championship game for the third time in school history, winning in 1980 and '86.
*Pitino is trying to become the first coach to win a national championship at two different schools. He won a title when he was at Kentucky.
*U of L has now won 15 straight games, which marks the fifth longest winning streak in school history.