Louisville's 2nd-half comeback falls short Print
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Saturday, 29 March 2008 17:25
NCAAB Headline News


 CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -Louisville suddenly looked like the team that had dominated late in the season. Shots were falling, Rick Pitino's famous press was working and the Cardinals had silenced the partisan North Carolina crowd.
But Louisville's second-half comeback wouldn't last. Top-seeded North Carolina was too imposing down low, too quick and had too many weapons, even for the deep Cardinals.
Pitino was denied his sixth trip to the Final Four and his second in four years with Louisville, as North Carolina recovered from blowing a 12-point second-half lead to beat the Cardinals 83-73 Saturday night in the East Regional final.
Turnovers and Tyler Hansbrough were the difference. The Cardinals (27-9) lost the ball 19 times and Hansbrough dominated David Padgett in a matchup of high-profile centers.
Hansbrough had 28 points and 13 rebounds. Padgett was held scoreless in the first half and finished with six points, eight rebounds and six assists in his final college game.
Still, Louisville made it interesting after the Tar Heels had seemingly taken command. Trailing 48-36 with 17:57 left, the Cardinals got going behind Jerry Smith. He hit two 3-pointers and had two layups, Andre McGee added a 3, and the full-court pressure was causing the Tar Heels problems just getting it over half-court.
Suddenly Louisville had tied the game at 59 on Earl Clark's free throw with just over 10 minutes left.
But while Louisville's late-season surge was based on depth and speed, the Tar Heels (36-2) beat them in both categories Saturday. Hansbrough's layup with 9:57 left put the Tar Heels ahead to stay.
Hansbrough added another jumper, then a free throw, and now Louisville had lost its rhythm amid a wave of North Carolina's fastbreak points. Pitino called timeouts, but they didn't stop the tide. The lead expanded, and the Cardinals finished a win shy of their goal.
Pitino shook North Carolina coach Roy Williams' hand, then chatted with Hansbrough after the final buzzer before patting him on the back.
Williams' secured his sixth Final Four berth, moving past Pitino into a tie for fourth all-time with former Louisville coach Denny Crum and Adolph Rupp of Kentucky.
 

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