by Greg Mengelt CNHI News Service
Monday, April 1, 2013 — INDIANAPOLIS — Louisville overcame a gruesome injury to sophomore Kevin Ware to earn the 10th Final Foul berth in the program's history -- and its second straight -- with an 85-63 victory over second-seeded Duke.
The top-seeded Cardinals will face Wichita State at 6:09 p.m. on Saturday in the first national semifinal at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Michigan will meet Syracuse in the second game.
"To go to back-to-back Finals Fours is special," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "To win one would be really special."
Ware, a native of Conyers, Ga., broke his leg with 6:33 left in the first half with Louisville leading 21-20.
"I saw Kevin go out there and challenge it," junior Russ Smith said. "And then I see what happened and I immediately just fell. I almost didn't feel nothing, because I didn't think in a million years I would see something like that. And when that happened, especially to a guy like Kevin Ware, I was completely devastated."
"We had to do this for Kevin," senior guard Peyton Siva added. "We just tried to stay together as a team. That's all we could do."
"I was going to help him up and all of the sudden I saw what it was, and I literally almost threw up," Pitino said. "I don't think we could have [pulled it together] if Kevin hadn't said over and over, 'Just win the game.' It was terrible to watch, but we had to gather ourselves. We couldn't lose this game for him. We just couldn't.”
Ware underwent surgery for a double fracture in his leg at an Indianapolis hospital Sunday night. He is expected to recover although the healing process may take up to a year, Pitino said.
The Cardinals were clearly shaken at the sight of Ware's bad break, but they responded by outscoring the Blue Devils 64-43 the rest of the way for their 14th straight victory.
"We tried to match them and we couldn't match them," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said.
Russ Smith led the Cardinals with 23 points and now has 104 points in four games during the NCAA Tournament. Peyton Siva added 16 with four assists and no turnovers. Towering junior center Gorgui Dieng added 14 points and 11 boards.
Smith, Siva and Dieng were all named to the Midwest Regional All-Tournament team. Smith was named Most Outstanding Player.
"Their two guards set an amazing pace," Krzyzewski said of Smith and Siva. "Siva, he didn't look like he was even sweating today."
Mason Plumlee had team highs with 17 points and 12 boards for the Blue Devils. Two nights after scoring 29 points in a win over Michigan State, Seth Curry went scoreless in the first half Sunday before finishing with 12. The Cardinals held Duke senior Ryan Kelly to just seven points.
Louisville is now 33-5 and has tied a school record for victories. The Cardinals have shot at least 52.7 percent in each of their tournament games. They are shooting 55.1 percent for the tourney.
Greg Mengelt is a reporter for the News and Tribune in Jeffersonville, Ind. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.