x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Kevin Ware watches on as Louisville make the March Madness final

Will face Michigan in the final following victory over Wichita State.

Cleanthony Early goes for a shot for Wichita State during their defeat to Louisville in the NCAA Final Four.
Cleanthony Early goes for a shot for Wichita State during their defeat to Louisville in the NCAA Final Four.

Kevin Ware could not stay seated for this one.

As he watched the way the Louisville Cardinals' back-ups came through to fill the void and defeat the Wichita State Shockers in their NCAA March Madness Final Four match following his season-ending injury last week, Ware just had to stand and cheer.

"I wasn't thinking," Ware said. "I was just trying to get in the huddle to get around the team. I was just telling the guys (that) defence is going to win this game."

It helped that their leader off the bench, Luke Hancock, scored 20 points and another backup, Tim Henderson, added two three-pointers.

Ware, who only six days ago had surgery to repair a gruesome compound fracture in his right leg, was on crutches as he followed his teammates onto the court.

He remained seated for most of the game as Louisville trailed.

Louisville were behind 47-35 midway through the second half. Ware clapped and cheered as the Cardinals rallied, finally taking the lead with 6:30 remaining on a 3-pointer by Hancock.

Then, with the game tied 58-all with about five minutes to go, Ware stood and clapped and remained on his feet until the Cardinals took a 60-58 lead. Putting his weight on his good left leg, the sophomore guard stood again, using the elevated court for support, in the closing minutes of Louisville's 72-68 win over the Shockers.

"The bench won the game for us tonight," said Louisville coach Rick Pitino. "Unbelievable display."

Ware stood again and smiled as Russ Smith, who led the Cardinals with 21 points, sank two free throws with 4.9 seconds remaining.

Smith said Louisville's players needed time to recover from the shock of seeing the horrific injury to Ware.

"When something like that happens, it's really devastating emotionally," Smith said. "When that happens, it really bothers you physically and mentally. I think the guys did a great job of stepping up and blocking out all the negativity and looking at the positive side that Ware's OK."

As the game ended, Ware said he convinced a security guard to allow his father, Kevin Ware Sr, through the crowd. The two embraced in a long hug. Ware said he had not seen his father, who lives in New York, "in a year or two."

The Cardinals will face Michigan for the national title Monday night after the Wolverines beat Syracuse 61-56 in the other semi-final.

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE