The Louisville Cardinals won a tense national semifinal over the Wichita St. Shockers 72-68 tonight. This was a game that came down to the final seconds following the Cardinals coming back from a 12-point deficit in the second half. If anything was demonstrated in this win for the Cardinals, it’s that their bench can be counted in if the starters aren’t getting the job done.
The Shockers did their job on defense for almost the entire game, but simply got overwhelmed by the Cardinals’ depth. The Cardinals bench ended up contributing 28 points to the Shockers’ 9, and a bench player by the name of Luke Hancock became the Cardinals’ savior in this game.
Hancock scored 20 off the bench, but it was his two quick three-pointers with the Cardinals down 12 that were his biggest. These shots immediately cut a double-digit lead in half and gave the Cardinals new life in a game that was slipping away from them. From the moment Hancock made these shots to the end of the game, the Cardinals outplayed the Shockers. It was the only time of the game the Cardinals were outplaying their opponent, but it was the time that mattered the most.
Also, Tim Henderson scored six and Montrezl Harrell scored 8 off the bench for the Cardinals.
These bench players were definitely needed to score in this one because the Cardinals’ starters and biggest stars were useless when it came to scoring.
Between Gorgui Dang, Peyton Siva and Wayne Blackshear, there was only one made basket in the entire game. Siva had seven points, but five came from the foul-line. Dang and Blackshear didn’t score at all in the Cardinals’ win.
This was far from the Cardinals’ best performance, but it was definitely their first true test of the tournament. The Shockers took the Cardinals down to the wire, thanks to a poor shooting day from the Cardinals as well as their best players getting into foul trouble earlier than the Shockers’ best.
The Cardinals won, so a silver lining is automatic. The output from their bench was it.
No matter the opponent, as many points out of the Cardinals’ bench will be welcome. If their best don’t come through again, it will be necessary if they want to win a national championship.