ATLANTA — Ehimen Orukpes free-throw misses almost midway through the second half Saturday couldnt have come at a worse time for Wichita State, which paid the price with back-to-back three-pointers from Louisville guard Tim Henderson.
Leading 47-35 with 13:15 left, Orukpe airballed the front end of a one-and-one and Henderson nailed his first three on the ensuing possession to make the score 47-38. WSU went on to fall 72-68 in the national semifinal at the Georgia Dome.
On WSUs next possession, freshman guard Ron Baker gave up a wide-open three-point try and passed inside to Orukpe, who was fouled while shooting. Orukpe missed another front end Henderson hit his second three 10 seconds later to cut the lead to 47-41.
We made a couple of plays that, you know, turned things around for (Louisville), Orukpe said. The free throws were big. If I could have just made one or two of them, even that would have made a difference.
Stay in your seat Louisville sophomore Kevin Ware had a hard time containing himself on the bench.
Ware broke his right tibia in Louisvilles Elite Eight win over Duke on March 31. The injury became a rallying point for his teammates, who wore warmup shirts that read Ri5e to the Occasion in his honor. Ware wears No. 5.
Louisvilles lack of urgency on defense bothered Ware.
I was mad the entire game, he said. They werent getting out defensively, and that is what got us to this point. I even got on the court. I kept yelling at them. I hopped (up on the court) and (trainer Fred Hina) kind of got mad that I was even up there. I got back down before anyone could notice.
Over the top Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall spent much of Fridays public practice session running his team through drills to break Louisvilles press, including throwing the ball almost the length of the court on inbounds plays.
It worked several times in the first half, resulting in a layup for Nick Wiggins and getting Cleanthony Early open for a look at the basket once when he was fouled while shooting.
Marshall couldnt take credit for the play, however.
Thats a Hal Nunnally special from Randolph-Macon College, Marshall said. Hes deceased now, but he was quite a coach. I think it alleviates a little bit of pressure when you do that. We got them once for the layup for Nick Wiggins, but we threw a couple of bad passes or we could have got them a couple of more times.
New look for WSU The Shockers debuted new black uniforms from Nike for Saturdays game, eschewing their normal look with Wichita and State above and below their jersey numbers.
Saturdays look had the feel of a throwback with only Shockers written above the number, and both the S at the front and end of the word capitalized. Its a common move for Nike when one of the teams they sponsor plays against a team sponsored by their rival, Adidas, which was wearing the companys much-maligned adizero uniforms.
Its believed to be the first time WSU has won Shockers on its chest instead of Wichita State.
In the crowd WSU president John Bardo continued his enjoy his first year in office. He worked the student section before the game, slapping hands along the front row.
Athletic director Eric Sexton joined in, also trading high-fives with the students.
Former Wichita State athletic director Jim Schaus, now at Ohio, walked through the Shocker crowd before the game, talking and hugging friends. Former president Don Beggs and Shirley, his wife, sat in the WSU section, wearing black and yellow.
Delay of game Wichita States 48-year gap between Final Four appearances (1965-2013) ranks as the fourth-longest in NCAA history.
Wisconsin (1941-2000) tops the list with a 59-year absence. Stanford (1942-1998) is next at 56 years, followed by West Virginia (1959-2010) at 51 years.
The Final Four is celebrating its 75th year in the Georgia Dome.
Pitino powered With Saturdays win, Louisville coach Rick Pitino became the fifth coach to take two schools to the championship game, following Frank McGuire (St. Johns, North Carolina), Larry Brown (UCLA, Kansas), Roy Williams (Kansas, North Carolina) and John Calipari (Memphis, Kentucky).
If Louisville wins on Monday, hell be in a company all his own, because no coach has won NCAA championships at two schools. Pitino won a title at Kentucky in 1996.
"I dont think about my legacy or anything like that," Pitino said. "Im just focused on the team and doing what I need to do to help us win a national title. The rest of that stuff is for other people to worry about."
3 for 3 Pitinos week continued to go well in other places. The race horse that he co-owns on Saturday won the Santa Anita Derby in Arcadia, Calif.
The victory insured that Goldencents will go on to race in the Kentucky Derby in Louisville.
Pitinos week had already seen his son, Richard, hired as Minnesotas new coach. A victory in Monday nights national championship game will give him a 4-for-4 week.
48 hours Louisvilles Gorgui Dieng knows exactly what hell be doing between now and Monday.
Watching film and more film, he said of Mondays final against Michigan. A lot of film. Thats the one thing I know.
Were not going to overthink it. Were going to stay humble and be ready.
Buzzer Chane Behanan, Louisvilles sophomore forward, knows exactly when he thought the Cardinals had defeated WSU.
When the buzzer went off, he said. Im not going to lie. That was the best team we played all year. Hands down.
Rally time Louisville coming from 12 points down marked the second straight year a team had to rally from a double-digit deficit to win a national semifinal.
Kansas rallied from a 34-21 deficit against Ohio State last year to win 64-62.
Special guest Gov. Sam Brownback stopped by the Shockers locker room after the game.
"This was a phenomenal run," he said. "It didnt end like wed hope, but this is a wonderful team. Theyve made us all proud.
"They brought millions of dollars of good publicity for the city and state. Tens of millions."