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Dan Wolken, USA TODAY Sports

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • Louisville guard Kevin Ware suffered a gruesome leg injury
  • The victory puts Pitino in his seventh Final Four
  • Duke's Mike Krzyzewski's denied his 12th Final Four

INDIANAPOLIS - Louisville is headed back to the Final Four, and this time looks every bit the part of overwhelming favorite.

After getting an emotional shock in the first half of Sunday's Midwest Regional final when guard Kevin Ware suffered a gruesome leg injury, the No. 1 overall seeded Cardinals regrouped and pulled away from No. 2 seed Duke, 85-63, at Lucas Oil Stadium.

With Louisville leading 21-17, Ware ran out to contest a three-point attempt by Tyler Thornton. Moments after Thornton made the shot, however, there was pandemonium on the court when Ware planted his leg, turned and suffered what looked like a broken bone.

Immediately, medical personnel came out with a stretcher while Louisville players appeared traumatized.

In a terrifying scene, Cardinals guard Russ Smith started crying uncontrollably after seeing Ware while freshman forward Montrezl Harrell was doubled over on the floor, shaking.

Players on Duke's bench also appeared to be shocked about what had just happened.

The game stopped for seven minutes, and Louisville's players gathered around Ware before he was taken out of the arena on a stretcher.

Tied at 42 with less than 16 minutes remaining, Louisville rattled off a 20-4 run and had no problems putting away the Blue Devils, who were the second-highest ranked team left in the tournament.

Though Louisville's energy and focus clearly wavered in the moments following the chaotic scene around Ware, the Cardinals' speed and aggressiveness eventually proved to be too much.

After a 3-point play by guard Russ Smith put Louisville back in front 45-42, guard Peyton Siva took over the game, penetrating his way to two easy buckets and opening the high post for center Gorgui Dieng, who made three jumpers from the foul line area.

Duke, which had beaten Louisville 76-71 back on Nov. 24, couldn't keep Louisville's guards out of the paint all game. The Cardinals made just 2-of-13 from the 3-point line but shot 52.7 percent overall, with Smith accouting for 23 points and Siva scoring 16. Louisville held Duke to 19-of-52 from the field.

The victory puts Pitino in his seventh Final Four. But as opposed to last year, when Louisville was a surprise entrant and lost to eventual champion Kentucky, the Cardinals will be the team to beat. Pitino's only national title came in 1996 when he was coach at Kentucky.

Louisville also denied Duke's Mike Krzyzewski's his 12th Final Four appearance, which would have tied John Wooden for the most in history.

Ware was taken promptly to IU Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis.

A spokesman for the Cardinals said doctors "got his pain under control now and he's resting comfortably," being prepped for a likely surgery. As the game started back up, Pitino dropped to one knee on the sideline and wiped tears away.

The coach said during a halftime interview on CBS that Ware told the team as he was lying on the court: "Don't worry about me. I'll be OK. You guys go win this thing."


Contributing: The Louisville Courier-Journal

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