By Sammie Hill —
Update: 1:56 am, 4/9/13
The first half of the National Championship appeared bleak for Louisville until Luke Hancock stepped in and gave an inspired performance. The Virginia native helped Louisville secure an 82-76 victory over Michigan while instilling hope in his team and its fans.
Hancock remained solid on Monday night when the rest of the team seemed a step behind the Wolverines. Determined to keep Louisville from falling behind in the first half, Hancock scored 14 points in two and a half minutes. Sinking 3-pointer after 3-pointer, Hancock kept the Cardinals in the game and provided the team—and the Louisville crowd—with much needed momentum.
“We needed a rally, and we’ve been doing it for a couple of games straight, being down,” Hancock said. “We just had to wait and make our run.”
Driven by the personal motto to “play hard and have fun,” the junior forward has made an impact since arriving at Louisville last year. The 6-foot-6, 200 pound player transferred to U of L from George Mason University last season. However, Hancock’s transfer status forced him to sit out the 2011-12 season. Nevertheless, Hancock earned the title of co-captain this year due to his leadership abilities on and off the court. He clearly displayed this leadership Monday night.
“I just thought we needed something,” Hancock said. “I tried to do whatever I could to help the team. I usually take a back seat to Russ and Peyton, which I’m fine with since they are such great players. I just hit a few shots.”
Although Hancock recognized the significance of Monday’s game, he tried to maintain a steady mindset.
“In the game, you just try to treat it like any other game,” Hancock said. “Just try to go out there and play. If you’re open, shoot it. If you’re not, drive it and pass it to another guy.”
With a total of 22 points, Hancock made all five of these 3-pointers Monday night and led the Cardinals to their first NCAA victory since 1986. With leading scorer Russ Smith struggling, Hancock stepped up to keep Louisville in the game.
“As soon as we started playing Luke Hancock more, our halfcourt offense evolved into something that was very special. Luke is a play maker along with Peyton,” said Coach Rick Pitino.
“Coach Pitino made this feel like home. I’m so excited for our team to be in this situation and finally be here,” said Hancock,
Sunday Pitino said, “His father getting to that game, being there, was awesome.”
“There’s no way to describe how it feels that my dad was here,” said Hancock.
As senior guard Peyton Siva and sophomore forward Chane Behanan began to contribute multiple points as well, Louisville gained the advantage and clung to victory as Hancock’s 3-pointer at 3:27 left put Louisville up double digits for the first time all game. The Cardinals were able to hold onto victory until the end of the game.
“It doesn’t get any better than this,” Hancock said after the game.
Injured guard Kevin Ware mirrored Hancock’s excitement.
“These are my brothers,” Ware said. “They got the job done. I’m so proud of them, so proud of them.”