ATLANTA — Talk about your Super Subs.
Spike Albrecht of Michigan and Luke Hancock of Louisville came off their respective benches and each made all four of their 3-point attempts Monday night, as the Wolverines took a 38-37 lead after a breakneck first half in the national title game.
Albrecht had 17 points at halftime and still hasn't missed in nine attempts from beyond the arc during the NCAA tournament.
Hancock, who led Louisville with 20 points in its semifinal victory, had 16 at halftime of this one.
Albrecht, a freshman who averages less than eight minutes and two points a game because he plays behind AP Player of the Year Trey Burke, was 6 of 7 overall from the floor.
Burke scored seven points over the first 2:44 for the Wolverines to match his entire output from Saturday night's semifinal. But he drew his second foul with 11:09 and coach John Beilein replaced him with Albrecht.
Good call. The freshman from Crown Point, Ind., hasn't missed a 3-pointer since March 3. Before this game, he had only scored 67 points all season.
Meanwhile, Hancock made all four of his 3-pointers to start a 14-1 run for Louisville that briefly gave the Cardinals a one-point lead after they trailed by 12. Michigan's Glenn Robinson III made two free throws with 2 seconds left to give the Wolverines the lead at the half.
The Cardinals (34-5) have won four games this season after trailing by 10 or more, including Saturday night's semifinals, when they beat Wichita State 72-68 after also falling behind by 12.
It was a scintillating opening to the final act of a season that has been more of a grind, with scoring at its lowest (67.49 points per team) since 1951-52 and shooting at its worst (43.3 percent) since 1964-65.
The 131.2-points-per-game average during March Madness is the lowest since the 3-point line was brought to the game in 1987, though the teams were on pace to easily surpass that after the first half.
"Look at the story lines out there," Beilein said during a quick interview at halftime. "It's going to be one of the best games ever."
Watching from the stands were all five members of the Fab Five, the brash group of sophomores who led Michigan (31-7) to the final in 1993 — the program's last appearance at the Final Four.
That included Chris Webber, who infamously called a timeout the Wolverines didn't have at the end of Michigan's 77-71 loss to North Carolina in the 1993 final. He has had very little to do with his alma mater in recent years, but was seen getting out of his car and heading into the Georgia Dome shortly before tip-off.
Top-seeded Louisville is trying to bring its first title back to the state of Kentucky's "other" school since 1986. Sitting on the bench with the Cardinals is sophomore guard Kevin Ware, the team's inspiration since snapping his tibia in the regional final last weekend.
Cardinals coach Rick Pitino is working the sideline hours after being chosen for the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame. Pitino is trying to become the first coach to lead two programs to national championships. He took Kentucky to the title in 1996.
Russ Smith, the Louisville team leader who Pitino has nicknamed "Russdiculous" for some of his wild — and wildly effective — antics on the court, scores 18.9 points a game for the Cardinals during the season but has picked up the scoring in the tournament, averaging 25 in the five Louisville wins.
The Cardinals are playing without their main reserve, Ware, who broke his leg in the regional final against Duke. Needing a pickup without Ware, Hancock led the scoring against Wichita State. And rarely used walk-on Tim Henderson made two key 3-pointers during the comeback.
"The other night, we were not going to play in the championship game unless a walk-on steps up and makes a play to give us momentum," Pitino said in a pregame interview.Comment on this story
Michigan topped Syracuse 61-56 on Saturday despite an off night from Burke, who finished with only seven points on 1-for-8 shooting.
Burke, a sophomore, seriously considered leaving for the NBA after last season but decided he had unfinished business left in Ann Arbor. He picked up the AP Player of the Year award, among others, and is now one victory away from the ultimate prize in college hoops.
Before leaving the locker room, Beilein gave his team a pep talk: "You play with poise, play with confidence, you do all those things today and we're going to have one heck of a celebration," he said.