Friday, March 21 2014 7:28 AM EDT2014-03-21 11:28:45 GMT
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ATLANTA (RNN) – Chane Behanan and Peyton Siva combined for 25 second-half points and Louisville staved off a late Michigan surge as the Cardinals took their third NCAA basketball title with an 82-76 win over the Wolverines.
Louisville had to come from behind for the second time in the Final Four, falling behind by as much as 12 in the first half. But Luke Hancock started hitting from outside, as he did to fuel the semifinal win over Wichita State, and drained four straight 3-pointers on a 14-point run to rally the Cardinals to trail by one at the midpoint, 38-37.
"We went to work there against a great Michigan team," said Hancock who finished with a team-high 22 points and was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player. "We had to wait and make our run."
Behanan scored 15 points - 11 in the second half - and pulled down 12 rebounds to draw praise from head coach Rick Pitino.
"Chane Behanan's guts on the backboards is the reason we're standing here right now," he said, as his team passed the championship trophy around and confetti swirled in the Georgia Dome, where more than 70,000 fans watched.
"It was as good as it gets," Pitino said. "They executed almost every play to perfection."
Louisville, which was the tournament's No. 1 overall seed, took the lead for good 49-47 with just under 14 minutes left to play when Behanan sank a pair of free throws.
Despite never building a big lead, the Cardinals remained in complete control of the game the rest of the way. Tough play in the paint and Behanan's rebounding kept Michigan from getting many chances on second-period possessions.
UL took its longest lead, 78-70 on a Behanan layup with just under two minutes left then made all four free throws down the stretch to hold on.
Siva, a senior guard, closed his career with 18 points, 14 in the second half, and five assists. Louisville finishes with a 35-5 record.
National player-of-the-year Trey Burke led Michigan with 24 points after sitting out all but six minutes of the first half in foul trouble. Freshman Spike Albrecht took over at point guard and scored all 17 of his points in the first period, throwing in 6-of-7 threes to help the Wolverines build their early lead.
Glenn Robinson III and Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 12 each for Michigan, a late-bloomer this year that finished fourth in the Big 10 and powered its way through the bracket from a No. 4 seed. UM ends its season 31-8.
"We fought for 40 minutes," Burke said. "There was never a point in time where we gave up. Louisville was just a really solid team at the end of the game. I felt like we could have turned them over a couple more times, but they took care of the ball and they hit foul shots."
Michigan coach John Beilein said he hopes his team won't focus on the loss but the accomplishment of making it so far instead. And he said he hopes to see a few smiles on their faces when they get on a plane Tuesday.
"If they're not smiling, we are going to make them smile," Beilein said. "They're terrific young people. As I said, we are the luckiest coaching staff in the world to be able to coach these guys."
It was Louisville's first national title since 1986. The Cardinals also won the NCAA title in 1980.
Pitino became the first men's basketball coach to win national titles at two different schools. His Kentucky team won the national title 17 years ago.
"It's just, for us, been an incredible run with the most wonderful young men I had the pleasure to be around," Pitino said of the season. "I am so proud of them."
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