CharlieStrong2013SugarBowl
Louisville Football Presents the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Spring game on Saturday at 1 p.m.

It’s been more than three months since the University of Louisville football team captured one of the biggest victories in school history with a win over the Florida Gators in the Sugar Bowl.

The Cardinals will complete spring practice on Friday before taking the field at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium for the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Spring game on Saturday at 1 p.m.

“It’s been hard,” defensive tackle Brandon Dunn said of spring practice. “Everybody is competing and jobs are not settled. The young guys are learning from the veterans, and there is just a good vibe around the program.”

There is a different feeling around the program because it’s the most veteran team that head coach Charlie Strong has brought back in his four seasons.  Fifty-three letterwinners return for the Cardinals, including 19 starters.

“Practice has gone smoothly,” Dunn said. “The meeting rooms are solid. There aren’t a lot of mistakes being made. It’s just a veteran team. It’s a disciplined team. They know what to do and what not to do. It’s a workplace. Everyone is taped and braced for practice and you don’t have to find players.”

Lofty expectations are being placed on this team based on its 11-2 record from last year and the return of many key veterans and a few transfers who sat out last season.

“Coach Strong has told us we played a good game against Florida,” defensive tackle Roy Philon said. “But that’s behind us. We need to start back over and try to go further this season. When coach Strong tells us something we listen to him because we know it’s in our best interest. “

Spring ball isn’t as much of a grind for the players like fall camp. The Cardinals conducted 14 practices before taking the field on Saturday for the spring finale. While players have the opportunity to work on their individual skill-set without having to focus on their next opponent.

“Spring ball helps you perfect what you have to do in fall camp,” Philon said. “Spring is basically fundamentals and working on yourself. It’s working on yourself so you can be better during the season. The defensive line took a step forward from last season. The defensive line looks good out there.”

For just the third time this spring, the Cardinals will compete in front of their loyal fans at the spring game. The Cardinals are looking for a huge crowd on Saturday to surpass the 25,000 that attended the 2007 spring contest.

“It’s a good thing,” Philon said of the spring game. “I hope we get a big crowd out there to show their support.”

There are lots of activities surrounding the spring game, starting at 9:30 a.m. There will be live music in the Street Fest area with food, $1 beers and carnival rides for both children and adults. Tickets for rides will be sold per ride or an all-day pass can also be purchased.

Once the gates open at noon, $1 beers will be available only on the Norton Terrace, and concession stands will be open throughout the main concourse.

The NCAA champion men’s basketball team and national runner-up women’s basketball team will be honored at the spring game and fans will be able to take their picture with the championship trophy from 10 a.m. -12:30 p.m. in Street Fest.

The women’s basketball team will sign autographs in the main concourse once the gates open at noon.

CardsFinalCelebration2013
Final Four Cards Advance Without Kevin Ware; Beat Duke 85-63

Initial Thoughts: 

The University of Louisville Men’s Basketball program clinched their 10th Final Four in school history and the 2nd in as many seasons Sunday evening at Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium. The game was a second half run away after leading the 1st half 35-32, but the story of the game is as much of the Cards making the Final Four in Atlanta as it is losing Atlanta native Kevin Ware to a broken leg at the 6:33 mark in the 1st half.

The scene was unlike any I’ve ever seen in college basketball.  Ware’s foot planted after defending a perimeter jumper and gave way.  The injury really is too graphic for replay, but unfortunately the injury happened right in front of the Louisville bench and several players reportedly were immediately ill at the sight.

The crowd was rowdy, supportive and loud.  Many didn’t believe that a dome setting would provide the Cards with much of a home court advantage but there were several LONG stretches where the crowd affected the ball game and gave the Cardinals some needed support.  After Ware’s injury it took the Cards some time to get their minds back to playing basketball.  Louisville led 21-20 at the time and found themselves down 26-23 two minutes later.  But March is about BROTHERHOOD, and the team quickly rallied around one another and their bond proved too strong to shake.   Louisville went into halftime with a 35-32 lead and held Duke guard Seth Curry to ZERO points at the break.

The 2nd half started with some back and forth but with 16:18 remaining and the game tied at 42 the Cards took over and continually built their lead until the eventual final margin of 22.  Think about that.  Louisville outscored DUKE 43-21 in the games final 16 minutes!  The crowd at Lucas Oil Stadium LukRuss Oil Stadium was amazing tonight.  Russ Smith was named the Midwest Region’s Most Outstanding Player, and rightfully so, but this was Peyton Siva’s night.

Siva led the Cards through a difficult time and sliced the Duke Blue Devil defense to shreds in the 2nd half.  It was a half of brilliance from the Senior Guard who continues to more firmly establish an already impressive legacy at the University of Louisville.  Siva found himself on the All-Tournament Team and finished with 16 points, 4 assists, 2 rebounds, 1 block, 1 steal & ZERO Turnovers in 33 minutes.   Siva also made things difficult for Duke Point Guard Quinn Cook with finished 3 of 11 from the floor also Tyler Thornton who would eventually foul out trying to guard Siva & Russ Smith.

Duke was forced to go to their bench early when Forward Ryan Kelly picked up his 3rd foul in the 1st half.  In the second half though, Kelly was back & someone decided to wake up Seth Curry.  Curry got to the line 7 times in the second half and finished with 12 points.  Mason Plumlee and Gorgui Dieng was an unbelivable match-up.  Both players patrolled the lane for their team, but Gorgui was able to hold up his end longer than Mason.  Still the stat lines for the two big men were outstanding:  Plumlee 17 points, 12 rebounds, 2 assists, 5 turnovers, 1 block in 39 minutes; Dieng 14 points, 11 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 turnover, 4 blocks, 2 steals in 25 minutes. In the end being able to put Stephan Van Treese & Montrezl Harrell inside paid off inside for the Cards.

After the game the post-game celebration was jubilant but thoughtful towards their injured teammate Kevin Ware.  Ware was in surgery by the time we were allowed into the post-game locker room and every player seemed eager to get news either from him directly or about him from the training staff.  During the trophy presentation Chane Behanan displayed Ware’s jersey and Rick Pitino asked the crowd to start a “Kevin” chant.  In the post-game locker room Peyton Siva was wearing Kevin Ware’s jersey.

Now the Cards move on to Atlanta to play Wichita State in the NCAA Final Four.  The program’s 10th in school history and first back-to-back appearance in the Final Four since 1982-83.  Atlanta is Kevin Ware’s hometown and fans are already dubbing the venue:  ”The Gorgui Dome”.

From UofL SID:

Ware Has Successful Surgery To Repair Broken Leg

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — University of Louisville guard Kevin Ware underwent successful surgery at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis on Sunday night to repair a broken bone in his right leg.

Ware had the bone re-set, the wound from the injury closed and a rod inserted in his right tibia during approximately two hours of surgery.  He suffered the injury with 6:33 remaining in the first half of the Cardinals’ 85-63 Midwest Regional Championship victory over Duke.

Ware will remain in Indianapolis until at least Tuesday, when he is hopeful to return to Louisville and then join the Cardinals as they advance to the NCAA Final Four in Atlanta.  A timetable has not been set for a return to basketball competition.

Ware was a key backcourt reserve for the Cardinals, particularly during the last third of the season.  He scored a career-high 11 points against Oregon on Friday in the regional semifinals and handed out a career-best five assists against Colorado State in the third round of the tournament.  He has averaged 4.5 points and over 16 minutes a game for the 33-5 Cardinals.

Midwest Regional All-Tournament Team 

Russ Smith, Louisville (Most Outstanding Player)
Peyton Siva, Louisville
Gorgui Deng, Louisville
Mason Plumlee, Duke
Seth Curry, Duke

Louisville Transcript

THE MODERATOR:  We have been joined by the University of Louisville coach and student‑athletes.  Coach Pitino, we’ll ask you to make an opening statement and then go to the student‑athletes, please.

COACH PITINO:  I’m real proud of the team.  I don’t think any of us, with what we had to witness, could have overcome it, if it wasn’t for Kevin Ware 12 times saying to the guys:  I’ll be fine.  Win the game.  And he kept saying it over and over and over.  I had to get the guys all in.

It was very difficult to look at and watch, but he’s a brave young man, because all he kept saying was:  Win the game.  We’re real proud of him.  It’s the same injury that Michael Bush had, from what Fred told me, in football, and he’ll come back.  We’ll get Kevin back as good as new.

That being said, it takes a heck of a ball club without backups to do what they did tonight.  Real proud of our guys.  Real disappointed for Kevin, but we’re getting him home to Atlanta.  That will be a consolation for him, certainly.

THE MODERATOR:  We’ll take questions for the student‑athletes.

Q.  Russ, you seemed particularly shaken by what you saw.  Can you just describe how you saw and what you saw and how long it took you to sort of normalize your emotions?

RUSS SMITH:  Well, we’re playing on the stage, and I was really into the game, and I was just looking close, and I got ‑‑ Thornton might have been open and I might have yelled and got up, and I seen Kevin go out there and challenge it.  When he landed, I heard it.  I’d heard it, and then I seen what happened come out, and I immediately just ‑‑ just like fell.

And I almost didn’t feel nothing, and it was, it was really hard for me to pull myself together, because I didn’t ever think in a million years I would see something like that.  And that happened, especially, to a guy like Kevin Ware, I was completely devastated.

Q.  Gorgui, your coach said after the Oregon game he wasn’t too happy with your defense.  Was this more like a Louisville defense today?

GORGUI DIENG:  Like we just ‑‑ Coach say was not happy with our defense, like you say, but all he been saying like yesterday was just like we need to play defense to win this game, because you are a very good basketball team.  If you play together and play good defense, we can come up with a victory.

And I think we did it tonight, and the guys did a great job.

Q.  Peyton, I was wondering if you could speak about the resolve and the focus of this team, about how you guys decide we’re not clipping down the nets because we have a bigger prize in mind, and one of your best players takes an injury like that, and a lot of teams would have been shaken and you guys are able to go blow out a great team like that.

PEYTON SIVA:  First, when Kevin went down, it was devastating for all of us.  Like Russ said, we would have never thought in a million years any of us would have seen that.  I didn’t get a chance to see it actually happen.  But when I looked over, I saw his leg.

We just came together and Kevin Ware really was the reason why we pulled this game out.  Like Coach said, he told us countless times:  Just go win this game for me.  Just go win this game.  Don’t worry about me.  I’m fine.  Just go win this game.

I don’t know how he did it.  I don’t know how he got the strength to do it, but he told us to go out there and win.  These guys really came to play.  Gorgui really stepped up.  He had a double double.  Russ really got going.

Everybody on the team just wanted to step up for him.  For us to show that focus and that determination is ‑‑ we just tried to do it for him.

Q.  What was your coach’s message to you at halftime, just to kind of get you refocused?

RUSS SMITH:  I’m going to make it like real simple and short.  Let’s not lose.  Don’t lose this game for Kevin Ware.  That was the main ‑‑ that was the summary.  That’s it, really.

Q.  After the locker room talk at halftime, when you finally walked out, what were your first feelings going on to the court?

PEYTON SIVA:  We had to do this for Kevin.  That’s our whole thing.  Coach told us that we need to get him back home, and I think it would have been a tougher loss for us if we would have went out there and lost.  I think that would have hurt him more than the actual injury.

So when we went out there, we tried to go out there and play together as a team.  We hit a little run, they hit a run, and we just made our last run.  And everybody really came together.

And we just tried to stay together as a team.  That’s all we could do when we went out there.  Not seeing No. 5 throw to Montrezl before the game was something different at halftime.  But everybody pulled together and we got it done.

Q.  Chane was wearing Kevin’s jersey at the end of the game.  Do you know whose idea that was and what did you guys think when you looked over and saw him wearing No. 5?

GORGUI DIENG:  Like Chane and Kevin are very close to each other.  They were like ‑‑ we all feel like we’re family, but Chane and Kevin, they are very close.  So I don’t know how he got the jersey, but to make short you can say just that they are very good friends.

RUSS SMITH:  Pretty much the same thing there.  Everyone looks at Kevin like a little brother, and he’s our brother, but the relationship that Chane and Kevin has is almost completely unmatched by anybody on the team.  They’re on another level of brotherhood.

And for Chane to do that, it was almost expected of him to do that.  And that’s a great way to go out.

Q.  Either Russ or Peyton, would you comment on Hancock’s work on Curry?

PEYTON SIVA:  I think he did an excellent job.  In the first half, we held him to zero points, and he couldn’t really get going.  And second half, I gave him a couple 3s and Coach P told me I wasn’t a great defender so I had to get off him and Luke had to get on him.

Luke did a great job in the second half, really containing him, not letting him go by him.  Luke is a great defender.  Coach P is actually pretty funny, because Coach tells Luke he’s the worst defender in the world, but Luke wanted to show him up today and did a great job in the second half.

Q.  During the three‑game losing streak in January, the Oregon, Notre Dame game, the five‑overtime game, did you envision going on a run like you’ve gone on and getting to the Final Four again?

RUSS SMITH:  We knew all along that we were good, and we knew how great of a team we are.  Coach knew it.  The whole staff.  We had faith in each other.  All we had to do was put it together.  Once we put it together, everybody got their confidence back.  The rotations were back to normal, and everyone locked in to say, hey, let’s set our goals, let’s win seven straight, win the conference.  Let’s win the Big East Tournament.  Let’s get the No. 1 of the No. 1 seeds, and now we’re here.

We’ve had confidence in ourselves all along.

PEYTON SIVA:  A lot of people counted us out, just like they did my junior year where we lost four of our last six games.  In our locker room, we knew what we were capable of.

We figured out what we need to do from our losses.  We learned from them.  We learned from the Villanova loss that we had to make free throws.  From the Syracuse loss, that I can’t turn the ball over in that situation to end the game.

So we nitpicked every little thing we did and came together as a team and decided that the team is more important than us individuals.  That’s what we just wanted to go out there and prove.

Today, it really showed what an actual team can do when you really play together.

Q.  Peyton, I don’t know if you can put it into words or not.  The tenth tie of the game was at 15:15 at 42‑42.  Then you went on a 13‑2 run.  Can you put into words what took place to get that double‑digit lead and you never gave it up?

PEYTON SIVA:  I think at the time, I had just given up two 3s.  We was in foul trouble.  Gorgui had three or four fouls.  I had three fouls.  Coach P continued to tell us we’ve got to keep the pressure on them.  We’ve got to keep being aggressive on offense.

We were getting out‑rebounded at halftime.  By the end of the game, we out‑rebounded them.  I think hitting the glass and really attacking them, being aggressive on the offensive end helped us spark the run toward the end.

It was a great victory for us.  Because we had one common goal, and that was to get it for Kevin.

Q.  The Duke guys said that you guys were maybe setting more wing screens and trying to force you guys baseline early and then you adjusted and maybe were setting more higher screens at the top.  What was the strategy behind that?  Why do you think it worked so well?

PEYTON SIVA:  Just a great job by Coach.  He’s the best coach out there to me, and he watched countless hours of film.  So he’s not doing anything over there.  Like he tells us, he’s just seeing the game as he sees it.  We’re the ones doing all the work.

At halftime, he told us ‑‑ he was actually telling us how to adjust, and I was trying to cut him off like, Coach, they’re playing like this.

He’s like, Can you listen to me?  I got this.  In the second half, he told us to set higher ball screens.  He’s just a master at what he does.

Q.  For Peyton and Russ, this is obviously your second straight Final Four.  How different is this one going to feel, and do you guys now feel like you’re going there on even more of a mission than you might have, say, yesterday?

RUSS SMITH:  Since being here, going to the Final Four again for the second time, it was really hard to do, because everyone had to put all the other stuff aside and focus and have one main goal and one main objective.  That’s very hard to do especially with the unit coming back.

I think we did a tremendous job just giving it our all.  And Coach did a great job of keeping this team together and getting us to reach our goals.  Without Coach, I mean, it wouldn’t be possible because he got everybody to play their A‑game, play hard, and also be a cohesive unit on both end of the floor.

And it’s so hard to get here, and it’s really no comparison.  This year is definitely special.

PEYTON SIVA:  This year is really special because everybody came back.  We had a lot of guys come back.  And this year’s message was ego.  You got to throw your egos out the door.  I think that’s what everybody did.  Humility is the key thing for this team.

This bracket this year, the NCAA Tournament, was a lot of people called it the death bracket.  Playing against Duke, playing against Oregon, playing against Colorado State, North Carolina A&T.  It was a tough road, but we pulled together.  Now that Kevin’s not with us, he’s always going to be with us.  He’ll be on the sidelines like he always is.  We want to do this for him.  We know how much it means to him to be out there, and how much he wants to be out there.

But we’re going to come together as a team.  We’re going to continue to fight through this and continue to go out there and play for Coach.  The name is on the front of the jersey, not the back.

THE MODERATOR:  Thanks, guys.  Congratulations.

We’ll continue with Coach Pitino.

Q.  Seth Curry said you guys did some things defensively that they hadn’t seen all year and it was almost like a box and one he felt in the second half.  Can you talk a little bit about what the game plan was against Curry and then those adjustments in the second half?

COACH PITINO:  The first thing we had to do against them was take them out of transition.  When you play against a Duke team and they only get two transition attempts, you take away the 3.

We felt if we would take away the 3 and trap him in the zone after trapping him match up man, we could keep them out ‑‑ they did a very good job of driving it.  But I felt that if we could keep them out of transition and keep the 3 away from them, we had a great chance of winning.

We just ‑‑ we wanted to take Kelly and Curry out.  Our offense was just as much lethal.  Now, we had 30 deflections at halftime.  We’re trying to get 35.  Only ten in the second half.  But we were trying to wear them out with our offense as well as our defense.

My son gave me a great suggestion on yesterday’s practice on two different isolations off our pick and roll.  He felt that Plumlee was very, very good.  Kelly was very good.  If we didn’t create some screening before we went into the pick and roll, they would be able to play it.  And it worked to perfection.  I owe him dinner tonight.  That’s about all he’s going to get from me.

But it was two great suggestions.  And then our defense was very complicated to go against.

Q.  You’ve been around this game a long time.  Have you ever seen anything on a court harder to look at, and what were your emotions the first couple of minutes after?

COACH PITINO:  Well, I went over and I was going to help him up, and then all of a sudden I saw what it was.  And I literally almost threw up.  And then I just wanted to try to get a towel to get it over that.  But all the players came over and saw it.

And I don’t think we could have gathered ourselves, I know I couldn’t have, if Kevin didn’t over and over kept saying:  Just win the game.  He kept saying it.  I had to bring everybody over, take Chane out of the game.

It was a gruesome sight.  Nothing like I’ve ever witnessed before in my life or a basketball game.  But I think when he kept saying that, we were in serious foul trouble.  But I don’t think we could have gone in that locker room with a loss after seeing that.

So being in serious foul trouble, Stephan Van Treese gave us a big lift.  Luke has gone from a guy who never even got in a defensive stance to someone who just stopped them cold there.  That’s an amazing tribute to his fortitude.

So it was terrible to watch.  I felt awful for the players, felt awful for the fans.  But we had to gather ourselves.  We couldn’t lose this game for him.  We just couldn’t.

Q.  Rick, you guys play off of energy so much.  When the game restarts, the last six minutes of the half, do you expect the same energy at that point?  Do you see?  How do you deal with that as a coach?

COACH PITINO:  I just said to them over and over and over, and at halftime, I said:  We know our game plan offensively and defensively.  If we let up for a second, then Kevin Ware doesn’t mean how much he means to us.  I said:  We’re going to dig in.  We’re going to play this game to the end.  We’ll get him back home, nurse him to good health, and we’re going to get him to Atlanta.

Q.  Rick, is this the hardest thing that you’ve had to go through as a coach?

COACH PITINO:  No, it’s not the hardest thing.  I think 9/11 and losing a child were probably the two most difficult things in my life.  This was the most difficult thing to see in front of the players because when personal tragedy hits, you personally have to get your family.  But when it’s a team thing like that, and all the players had to see that, it’s just how you respond from that moment, and they responded in an unbelievable way because they had to overcome serious foul trouble.  They had to overcome a great team.  They had to overcome someone they loved.

This is a very close, close basketball team.  The three losses we had were no big deal.  They really weren’t, because we were in every game.  Every game.  And when you play in the Big East, you’re going to have your share of losses.

But this was very traumatic for us to overcome, because all of us witnessed it right up close.

But that young man just screamed for ‑‑ he was okay, and I looked at his leg and he looked at his leg and he screamed.  And I told him:  You’re going to be fine.  You’re going to be fine.  He kept chanting:  Just win the game, just win the game.

And we did for him.

Q.  Can you elaborate on those two suggestions your son made and how you were able to make ‑‑

COACH PITINO:  We were in a lot of pick and rolls for Peyton and Russ to free up the other guys.  He said:  You’re going to have to create some screening for those guys, because Peyton and Russ are not great laterally.  They’re great north and south.

And he said:  Create them where they have to run at you, create the screen first where they have to run at you so while you’re going north, they’re coming at you.  And don’t set lateral screens with these guys with the way they’re playing.

We wanted to get Kelly in foul trouble.  As soon as he came back in the game, we went right at him and got it.

Q.  Do you plan to see Kevin over at Methodist?  Will you spend the night?  And have you been in touch with his family yet?

COACH PITINO:  We have ‑‑ my son, Richard, myself and the equipment manager are going to stay overnight.  We’ll see him late tonight when he comes out of surgery and we’ll see him first thing in the morning.

Q.  Rick, you and Mike Krzyzewski have a very close relationship.  This was obviously an emotional game.  I was just curious if you could share what he said to you afterward.

COACH PITINO:  I’m not sure.  He just said great game.  Good luck.  And Mike’s not only the best coach in our game, probably the classiest guy in our game.

So for me, we know how hard it is to beat Duke.  If you let Duke shoot, if you let Duke get in transition, you’re going to lose.  We took those two things away.

He was a class man when he beat me 21 years ago.  And he’s a class man in defeat.  He’s just a special guy.  We’re lucky to have him in our game.  We say he’s the modern day Coach Wooden.  And Coach Wooden is the one man I looked up to all my life as a teacher of the game of basketball.

All of us in the game are lucky to have Mike as our Olympic coach and as the most successful man in our game.

Q.  Rick, can you talk a little bit about getting back to the Final Four and how tough it is to do it back‑to‑back like this team has?

COACH PITINO:  It really is, because last year, I never had injuries like that happen.  We had 13 concussions.  Fred did the minutes.  We missed more minutes last year than all the other years, ten years I was there combined.

And we set a goal to get there last year.  We tried like heck to beat Kentucky.  We play them really well.  So we knew we had guys coming back.  Last year our message was to stay focused through all the injuries, work hard.  We’ll get healthy at the right time.  This year was about humility.  The one thing that could beat us was a lack of humility.

The guys were great at that.  They all bought in.  They know what it is to play for Louisville, and we got the job done.

It really was a death bracket.  It really was.  I’ve been in this business a long time.  I’ve never seen the likes of a Colorado State with five seniors, two fifth‑year seniors.  Oregon was great.  A&T, we overmatched them, but we had great respect for them.

You play Duke.  I mean, to get to a Final Four.  Now you’re going to play a Wichita State.  I wasn’t President Obama, but I picked Wichita State to go to the Final Four.  I watched them play VCU.  I thought they had the ability.  It was an amazing job that they did with five new players.

They’re a special team.  We’re a special team.  We already know all about Syracuse, and certainly Michigan is as good as it gets.

So it’s going to be a heck of a Final Four.  I’m just really, really pleased that it’s Kevin’s home and we can get him back home.

Q.  Kind of what I asked the players.  Did you envision a Final Four team after the Notre Dame loss, the three losses you said were close games?  Did you see they could do this when you challenge them to win seven in a row?

COACH PITINO:  I never think about the Final Four.  I only thought about it one time in my life.  It was 1996.  I said if we can just say unselfish, we can win it all.  There’s never been another period in my life I ever thought that way.  I thought Colorado State would be life and death.  I thought Oregon and Duke would be life and death.  So I’m a little surprised and humbled by the way our guys played.

But our offense, during that run, caught up to our defense.  We started shooting these amazing percentages, which we hadn’t done all year.  And we knew we weren’t a 3‑point shooting team.  I told the guys:  Look, when March comes, a lot of people get conservative.  I said:  We got to go the other way.  With we got to take more chances, more risk, push the pace.

And we started scoring about eight points more average than we have, because we were risk takers.  I believe in that come March, and now we’ve got to just shore up, probably play Luke more at the two guard in the back court.  We’ve got to get more out of Tim Henderson because Russ was dead tonight.  Russ was dead.  He had very little left, because he’s not only working so hard on defense, Peyton and him, but he’s got to go down and work on offense as well the way he’s working.

So we’ve got to make some adjustments right now.  We’ve got a week to do it.  To go to back‑to‑back Final Fours, it’s special.  We want a chance to win a championship, certainly.  The attempt to win one will be very special for us.

Q.  Rick, you didn’t cut down the nets again today.  Was it the same reason for when you didn’t do it at the Big East Tournament?

COACH PITINO:  First, let’s address Notre Dame.  We lost in five overtimes, and we’ve gone into Notre Dame and lost by 25 and 30 points.  A lot of teams do that.  Anytime you play Notre Dame, it’s very difficult to win there against Mike Brey and they’re a great team at home.  Great home‑court advantage.  It was no big deal.  We did lose in five overtimes.

I gathered the guys and said:  Look, we mentally lost this game tonight.  We didn’t physically lose it.  We mentally lost it.  If the mental aspects of our game catch up to the physical, let’s set a goal and win the next seven.  Then let’s go into Madison Square Garden in the last year of the Big East, the most special tournament, which I’m going to miss personally more than life itself to not go to Madison Square Garden.  It meant so much to me as a Knick coach, as a young man growing up.

I said:  Let’s win that tournament.  If we do everything, we’ll be the No. 1 of No. 1 seeds, and then let’s get to the Final Four and win it all.  We set our goals.  You don’t always achieve your goals.  When I said seven in a row, I would take five in a moment, be very happy.

But we did it.  We got here.  And I’m real proud of our players.

Q.  Coach, a lot of conversations on the table up there when the other three guys are there.  You and Peyton kind of talking back and forth.  Peyton says he interrupts you during halftime.  They talk about playing for Louisville.  What’s on front, not what’s on back.  Peyton gives Russ the trophy for the MVP.  This must be a special group.

COACH PITINO:  It is.  I’ve said it over and over about Peyton Siva, Billy Donovan and Peyton Siva are two young men I’ve coached that don’t have a characteristic that I would call a weakness as a person.  They’re both outstanding basketball players, but it really is fun to coach guys that just think about Louisville.  In the ‑‑ Montrezl Harrell is having a great game and Chane Behanan, I’m looking at them, and he says:  Let them go, Coach.  Let them go.  In the Syracuse game.  Let them stay.  Don’t worry about me, I’m fine.  In this culture in this day and age, you don’t see that.

Chane wanted to go back in the game tonight.  He said:  I’m ready when you are, Coach.  Peyton at halftime said:  Coach ‑‑ I said:  I’ve got it, Peyton.  I’ll say it a different way.  I said:  I’m not doing anything, Peyton.  But I see what’s going on.  You’re paying the price.  I’m doing nothing.  So here’s what we’re going to do with that pick and roll.  And he said:  I gotcha.

I’m getting old, but I’m not blind yet.  I said:  I see it.  I know exactly what you’re talking about.

And his play was magnificent tonight.  Russ’s play was magnificent.  We were running a lot of things for Gorgui to get a foul line jump shot because he’s mastered that very well.  I thought Chane was big on the glass.

I told the guys tonight:  If this is the Russ Smith show and you don’t all chip in, we can’t go to a Final Four and have a potential championship.  I said:  It was Gorgui and Russ last game; if everybody doesn’t play their part in this game on offense and defense, you can’t beat Duke.

And they all did.  And I’m real proud of that.

THE MODERATOR:  Thanks, Coach.  Congratulations.

COACH PITINO:  Thank you.

FastScripts by ASAP Sports

#21 Chane Behanan
On relationship with Kevin Ware:
“Off the court, we are real, real close. I was just lost. I just broke down to tears. I think everybody has a relationship with Kev, but I think it touched me more than everybody. Everyone will tell you that. Me and Kev are the closest. We are always together. When I go somewhere, he is always coming with me. You can ask around the locker room and people will tell you that.”

On what Ware was saying:
“He was telling us he was good and to continue to play well. Just win it for me and I’m good and you all continue to play and we were crying. Coach told me to sit out for a while because coach knows we are real close.”

On how tough it was to get it together after the injury:
“I don’t think we went anywhere. They came out and made a little run after halftime. We stuck in and we all kept saying let’s do it for Kevin. He broke his leg for us and we would have felt really bad if we didn’t come out with the win. I am just happy we got this win for him and I am just ready to see him. I mean, that’s my brother.”

On what it means to be in the Final Four:
“I mean, two years in a row, that is real big. This program is all about serious hard work and dedication and just sacrificing yourself. Just to come out and play hard for this man because he is going to bring everything out of you and look at the results you get.”

#11 Luke Hancock
On Kevin Ware’s injury:
“I mean, it’s even tough to talk about. I kind of watched the guy shoot it and he stumbled a bit for a second and fell, and, you know, his leg wasn’t where it should be.”

On what coach immediately said after the injury:
“Kevin Ware is a soldier. He is one of the strongest people I have seen in my life. The only thing on his mind and the only thing he was worried about was winning the game. But honestly, we were in shock. I don’t think we did re-group for the rest of that half. I think we were still in such shock. I mean, you could imagine how a team would feel if one of your brothers had this happen to them. I don’t think we were really ready until the second half. That was all for Kevin right there.”

On the shock of the injury to Kevin Ware:
“You could see it on every person in the arena’s face. Every single person had a look of almost sickness and feeling bad for Kevin.”

On what Ware said to the team:
“He just said he was going to be all right. He was going to get through it and we were going to get through it together. We said a couple of prayers and he’s a strong guy. All he was talking about was winning the game. It was pretty unbelievable.”

On the injury to Kevin Ware:
“You just wanted to help him. You just wanted to help him out. Help relieve some pain. Do whatever you can and there is nothing you can do. It was a really tough moment. It’s tough to talk about right now. We are just praying for him that he will get taken care of.”

On what Ware said:
“Just that he wanted to win. The only thing he said the whole time was win this game. He said it over and over again. That was all he said. He just kept saying he was going to be all right and that he was going to get through it, but he was just worried about the game.”

#20 Wayne Blackshear
On the team’s second half performance:
“We know Duke is a good team and we know that their two best players, Curry and Kelly, were the main two guys we needed to focus on. We focused on them in the second half. We didn’t give up any open threes or open looks and we made it tough on them all night.”

On the importance of having Kevin Ware’s presence in the post-game:
“It’s just good for us. I am pretty sure we are going to go see him later. We are just going to keep praying for him.”

On cutting down the nets in Indianapolis:
“No. We are not planning to cut down the nets until we win the championship.”

On Kevin Ware’s and the team’s toughness:
“Kevin is a tough dude. He’s one of the tougher guys I know. I have known him for a long time and if I know anything about him he is going to try to bounce back from this. We are just a tough team. Even last year coming into this year, even in the Big East Tournament, we were down, had to come back and push. Tonight we had to push as well.”

#44 Stephan Van Treese
“That was a great victory. I am really proud of the team.”

On what Kevin Ware said after his injury:
“He was saying win this for me. Don’t forget about the game, let’s win this. Let’s go to Atlanta. We all were saying we wanted to take him home. I mean, that’s where he is from so we wanted to win it for Kevin.”

On holding up Ware’s jersey post-game:
“Chane held up his jersey and we wanted to start up that chant. That was all for Kevin. It was a crazy, freak accident that happened and I am really feeling bad for him.”

On the locker room bonding together:
“We are always together. We live in a dorm and we are all in the same dorm. We are all together. This is my family outside of my regular family. Everyone is here for each other and we all have each other’s back.”

On Ware being in Atlanta:
“If I know Kevin, he will be there for sure. Definitely, he will be there one way or another.”

#24 Montrezl Harrell
On what Ware said on the sideline:
“Win this game. We had to take it upon ourselves and do it. For him to be laying there hurt like he was and the only thing on his mind was for us to win this game, that is what we had to do.”

On the morale in the locker room at halftime:
“We smelled blood. That’s what we did. With Kevin laying over there hurt telling us to win this game, we came into halftime, fixed what we were doing wrong and we came out there and put it on them.”

On the relationship with Ware:
“Brothers. I mean, we were close before I even came to Louisville. When I came on my visit, that is who I was with. I mean, basically, we are like brothers.”

On focusing on basketball after the injury:
“When it first happened, yes it was tough. All I did was shed tears. For him to lay over there in the predicament that he was and look me in my eyes and tell us to win this game, it was something I felt I had to do.”

On the team’s depth going forward:
“It’s a good feeling for us to have depth and be able go to the bench like that for somebody to come out and give us a big lift. Tim came out and gave us the great lift we needed at that point in time. I mean it felt pretty good. We just have to go on the next game and handle business.”

Duke Transcript

THE MODERATOR:  We will begin with an opening statement from Coach Krzyzewski and then we’ll go to the student‑athletes.

COACH KRZYZEWSKI:  We want to congratulate Louisville on winning this regional championship.  They played a great game.  They played so hard.  We tried to match them, and we couldn’t match them.  And they wear you down.

Their two guards just set an amazing pace, Siva.  I don’t know if he ‑‑ didn’t look like he was even sweating today.  He just was so smooth.  And then Smith is terrific.

We feel so bad about youngster Ware.  I don’t know the extent of his injury, but Godspeed to him.  I hope he’s going to be okay.  But congratulations to them.

I love my team.  I wish we could have played better today.  We needed to play a great game to win, and we couldn’t do that.  I’ve had a great team, and my three seniors, my three seniors have been the epitome of Duke basketball seniors.

Winning 124 games over their four years, just representing us so well, and it’s been a joy every day to be with them, and for all except one team, it’s going to be a sorry ‑‑ it’s a tough ending, and so it’s a tough ending whenever it comes, and today’s the day it came.

Q.  Seth, could you address the quickness of their guards and their ability to get to the basket?

SETH CURRY:  Yeah.  I mean, they just come at you for the whole game.  I mean, they’re attacking you and putting pressure on you.  You try not to put them on the line, the foul line.  If you do that, they’re going by you.  So they’re a great back court, and it was a tough test today.

Q.  Either of the athletes, just from where you were standing just when Ware went down, what did you see?

MASON PLUMLEE:  I was on the other side of the court.  I didn’t see anything.

RYAN KELLY:  I just saw him, obviously, in some pain.  I didn’t see what happened.

SETH CURRY:  I didn’t see anything.

Q.  Seth, you seem kind of passive first half, much more aggressive second half.

SETH CURRY:  They were throwing two bodies at me.  I was trying not to force it.  My teammates were getting good looks in the first half.  And like I said, I wasn’t trying to take bad shots and force anything.  But they did a good job in the first half of just being conscious of where I was at at all times and switching a lot of stuff.  Credit them.

 

Q.  Ryan, you got off to a really good start, and then got into foul trouble and spent 12 minutes on the bench.  You just didn’t seem to have that same rhythm in the second half.  How much did that long stretch on the bench the first half kind of change things for you?

RYAN KELLY:  That’s part of the game.  It happens.  I certainly didn’t want to be on the bench, but that happens and I don’t think that affected my performance whatsoever.

THE MODERATOR:  Thank you, fellas.

COACH KRZYZEWSKI:  Great job.

Q.  Mike, is that the best team you’ve seen so far this year?

COACH KRZYZEWSKI:  Again, I don’t watch all of college basketball, but it’s the best team we’ve played.  And they’re obviously better than we played in the Bahamas.

What they do, and Rick’s done an amazing job with them, because they have depth and they keep coming at you, but they make you have multiple decision‑makers.  You have to have more than one guy making a decision out on the court.

And in switching their defenses and their quickness and their athleticism, you have to ‑‑ it’s tough to run plays.  You have to make plays against them.  And we were doing that when we didn’t turn the ball over in the first half.

The thing with Seth, which we tried to change and did at the start of the second half, he was bringing the ball up too much.  We needed he and Mason to be finishers for us, and that’s how we started the second half.  We got that.

And then they played well, and then we missed some shots, and then they just spurted.  And then the game changed.

I thought we had a chance there, and then boom.  And that’s what they do to teams.  They can boom you.  They ‑‑ whatever.  My vocabulary isn’t very good, but you I hope you understand what I mean.  It’s a positive thing for them.  Not for us.

And Rick’s done a masterful job with this team.  He’s as good as they get, and this team’s as good as we’ve seen.

Q.  Coach, as a defense in particular just exceptional?  Is that the best defense you’ve seen in a while?

COACH KRZYZEWSKI:  Well, it’s a different defense.  You don’t see it on a day‑to‑day basis, because it’s not just running a zone press.  They run multiple defenses.  But all of them are played hard.  They’re all played really hard.

They’re very athletic.  They’re more athletic than we are.  They were terrific today.  We would have to play great to beat them today, and we were playing pretty well.  And then, boom, there’s that.  Now I’m going to say that for the rest of my life.  Hopefully, we’re booming somebody else next year.

Again, I’ve been doing this for a long time.  Man, they were good.  Bottom line, they’re really good.  And they were good.  They were terrific today.  I love those two guards.  And then Dieng has become a great player.  Not a good one, he’s become a great player.

So you get a lot of great players out there, it’s going to be tough to beat them.  And it has been tough to beat them.  The only way to beat them is to take them to a fifth overtime.  I think that’s the only way to beat them, and we weren’t going to do that today.

Q.  Mike, the injury that the Ware kid suffered was so gruesome ‑‑

COACH KRZYZEWSKI:  We didn’t see anything.

Q.  I was going to ask you how it would have affected your team.

COACH KRZYZEWSKI:  We didn’t see anything.  The only thing we said, take as much time.  I deferred to Rick, like if he wanted the teams to warm up again or whatever.  Whatever decision they made was going to be okay.

I mean, I could not feel worse that a kid gets hurt in a game.  For us or for them.  And, again, I have no ‑‑ I don’t know the extent of the injury, but obviously it was horrible because they had to ‑‑ took so long and they got a stretcher.

So, again, our prayers are with him.  Hopefully, if he’s not going to be able to play this year, that he’ll be able to come back.

Q.  Despite all the turnovers and Ryan’s foul trouble and the fact that Seth and Rasheed had not scored, you were still only down 3 at halftime.  Did you feel pretty good at your chances at that point?

COACH KRZYZEWSKI:  No, we did.  We felt that ‑‑ you get in a little bit of a frenzy when you’re playing them.  And here ‑‑ and we’re going to get the ball to start out the half.  We just made that one adjustment to try to get Rasheed to bring it down more with Quinn, and that got Seth some shots and it got Mason some.

But then it was I think at 42‑42, and we had that under out of bounds and Seth either blocked it or whatever, and whether he got a piece of him or blocked it, and, boom, the game changed from there.

And we missed a couple inside, and they just kept scoring.  When you’re not ‑‑ when you don’t score, you have to prevent them from scoring, or else these games get away from you.  We weren’t able ‑‑ our defense was not able to do that.

Q.  Coach, on an inspirational level, how do you think that injury kind of changes the game?  Does it spur on Louisville?

COACH KRZYZEWSKI:  Yeah, I think you should ask them.  I don’t know how ‑‑ they played hard the whole game.  I don’t know.  Rick and their kids would be able to answer that.

Q.  Mike, you pointed out that only one team’s going to end this thing happy.  Can you just sum up ‑‑ you’ve had teams go farther; you’ve had teams go shorter ‑‑ how you feel about this team and what it accomplished?

COACH KRZYZEWSKI:  Yeah.  I think we’ve had an unbelievable season.  I didn’t like our season last year, not just the way it ended, I just didn’t like it, even though we were 27‑7.  I loved this season.  I love my three seniors.

Every day ‑‑ at the end of a year you do this, there can be a little bit of you that wants it to be over and you fight it.  And in some years, every once in a while, not too often, you just want the damn thing to be over.  And there’s not one part of me that wants this season to be over.  I’m fresh.  I love my guys.  They were terrific, and they won 30 games with an unbelievable schedule.

We got beat by a better team, and we beat a lot of really good teams.  I just think that they did a great job this year.  I’m proud of my team.

Let me just say one last thing.  I really would like to thank all the people in Indianapolis, all the volunteers and the committee and how they set ‑‑ this cannot be run any better than what they do.  I don’t know how you in the press feel about it, but the people here have done an amazing job in making it just a first‑class event.

So from our program, we want to say thanks.

And, again, for Rick and his kids, congratulations.  Great, great job.  I’ll enjoy watching them now that we’re not playing them.

And, again, I want to thank my seniors.  Thanks very much.

FastScripts by ASAP Sports

#14 Rasheed Sulaimon

“Louisville is a great team. We knew we had to take care of the ball coming into it. I thought we did a good job of that in the beginning. In the second half, we kind of let it get away from us. We didn’t make our normal shots and I think they did a great job of pressuring us. I think we kind of let that affect our defense. They got on a run and they had the crowd on their side. It was just a very hard team to stop.”

On the game changing so quickly:
“With a team like that, they can get on a run anytime during the game. It was kind of the same thing that happened against Syracuse in their Big East championship. They are just a great team and I give all credit to them.”

On the guard play by Louisville as compared to Miami’s:
“Miami has two of the most talented guards in America as well. Russ Smith and Peyton Siva are a different type. They really attack you. They are smaller, but they are very quick. They put pressure on you. They were a load to handle especially to keep them in front and keep them out of the lane. They, along with the Miami guards, are two of the tougher guards we had to face this year.”

On what it was like to be beaten:
“I mean this team worked so hard. From the beginning since I walked on campus, we had one goal. We worked so hard. We have nothing to be ashamed of. Just for our seniors, that is what is hurting the most. As much as they have done for me and this program to not walk out as champions, it really hurts me. Like I said, we have nothing to be ashamed of. Everybody on this team worked their butts off this year and, you know, for the seniors, I just want to thank those guys. Those guys are going to have a hell of a career. It’s just hard. It’s just really hard to take.”

#2 Quinn Cook
On if they ever got back to the level they were playing at the beginning of the year:
“I think we had glimpses like the Miami game and the Carolina game. I don’t think we ever got back to where we were. But, you know, we play hard. That’s the thing. Our chemistry was faded a little bit, but I think we fought every game this year. We took a couple games off, but it’s been a great season for all of us. We were one step closer to the Final Four, but all of our guys coming back will use it as motivation and, the three seniors, it has been joy playing with those guys.”

On what they were able to do successfully in the first half against the pick-and-roll:
“We just switched up. We sent them to the baseline and it was working. They got out in transition and they got going in the second half.”

On what was going their way when it was tied 42-42:
“Seth got going. Seth got some looks. They went to a box-and-one, kind of a box-and-one on him. So, he got some looks in the second half and all five of us were rolling. They went up 49-42 and we couldn’t really get it back.”

On Louisville’s plan for Seth Curry:
“Coach Pitino did a good job of doing whatever he did. The guys also did a good job on him.”

#3 Tyler Thornton
On the injury to Kevin Ware:
“My heart just dropped when I saw it. It was just a regular basketball play. I didn’t expect anything like that when I looked over and saw him on the ground. Prayers go out to him and his family because you don’t want to see anybody experience anything like that, especially making a hustle play. He was closing out my shot and, unfortunately, he came down wrong on it.”

On actually seeing the injury:
“I was freaked out. I looked over and thought he rolled his foot. He lifted his leg in the air and I saw where his leg was broken. It was bent in a weird way that it shouldn’t have been.”

On staying in front of Louisville in transition and in the half-court:
“It’s hard. For guys like that, you have to try to make them play one against five. I think we did a pretty good job of controlling them in the first half. In the second half, we kind of got loose on our ball screen defense and they were able to penetrate and score. Despite that, we just weren’t able to score on the offensive end. We got a lot of shots we wanted and a lot of open shots, but we weren’t able to knock them down.”

On the frustration level rising when shots don’t fall:
“Definitely, especially in a situation like this where you can see the end coming. You get anxious and you want those shots to fall and they come down and score, it’s just demoralizing to a certain extent. They played really well and with a lot of energy. Our seniors did a great job of leading us this year and we really wanted to win this for them. We weren’t able to do that so I guess that’s that.”

I’ll have more reaction later.  Stay tuned to this post for post-game video, quotes, pictures, and notes.