NCAA blog: Sunday at the Elite Eight
The scene in Indianapolis was set for an epic battle, and for the first 13 1/2 minutes, the Cardinals and Blue Devils were delivering it.
Then, everything stopped with one play, and both players and fans were reduced to tears.
Louisville's Kevin Ware suffered a compound fracture of his leg as he landed after contesting a 3-pointer, and the injury was so gruesome that teammates began crying as Ware lay in front of the Cardinals bench with a bone sticking out of his leg.
The arena fell into stunned silence as trainers attended to Ware. Coach Rick Pitino wiped away tears as his sophomore guard was stretchered off the court and taken to the hospital.
Wow RT @zschonbrun: Several Louisville players appeared to vomit on the bench— Bill Reiter (@foxsportsreiter) March 31, 2013
Amzingly, Ware was exhorting teammates to win the game even while "the bone was sticking out of his leg," Pitino said after the game.
''The bone's 6 inches out of his leg and all he's yelling is, `Win the game, win the game,''' Pitino said. ''I've not seen that in my life. ... Pretty special young man.''
Play resumed, and the top-seeded Cardinals pulled away for an inspiring 85-63 win to reach the Final Four for their fallen teammate, who played his high school ball in Georgia.
''We won this for him,'' Pitino said. ''We were all choked up with emotion for him. We'll get him back to normal. We've got great doctors, great trainers. We talked about it every timeout: `Get Kevin home.'''
One of Ware's teammates and closest friends, Chane Behanan, spoke with Ware at halftime.
''He said `Don't worry about me, I'm good, I'll have my surgery tonight,''' Behanan said. ''Go win it for me.''
Behanan switched into Ware's No. 5 jersey near the end of the game. Afterward, he kept it on and the Cards led the heavily partisan Louisville crowd in chants of ''Kev-in.'' Behanan then took the jersey off and continually held it up next to and underneath the Midwest Region championship trophy.
''Kevin's like a brother to me,'' Behanan said. ''We're always together.''
Pitino said Ware's was the same injury former Louisville running back Michael Bush had in football. Bush, now with the Chicago Bears, has recovered to have a productive NFL career. Dr. Mark Adickes, FOXSports.com's Jock Doc, says as long as a nerve wasn't injured by the fracture, Ware will be fine.
I can't even get myself together. I don't even wanna watch the rest of this game. His life just change— Michael Bush (@michaelbush29) March 31, 2013
You know it's bad when Theismann feels for you:
Watching Duke/ Louisville my heart goes out to Kevin Ware.— Joe Theismann (@Theismann7) March 31, 2013
May God be with Kevin Ware and his family.Ya in my prayers bro— Lil Wayne WEEZY F (@LilTunechi) March 31, 2013
Let me tell you what Ware's best friends did after he broke his leg. They kept playing basketball. Ware isn't in Afghanistan. He'll be fine.— Jason Whitlock (@WhitlockJason) March 31, 2013
LOUISVILLE WOMEN STUN GRINER, NO. 1 BAYLOR
Louisville's Shoni Schimmel, who had a team-high 22 points, mad dogs Brittney Griner after making a spectaular over-the-shoulder shot and drawing a foul on her.AP Photo/Alonzo Adams
Louisville survived after blowing most of a 19-point lead and having leading scorer Shoni Schimmel (22 points) foul out, as Monique Reid hit two free throws with 2.6 seconds left to upset the defending national champion in the regional semifinals of the women's tournament.
''It's an amazing feeling,'' said Reid, a 69 percent foul shooter. ''It was great that I could actually hit those clutch free throws. I just wanted to get on top of a building and scream!''
Considered a lock for the Final Four and prohibitive favorites to win a second straight championship, Griner and her Lady Bears (34-2) had won 32 straight games, and 74 of 75, including last season's unprecedented 40-0 run to the championship.
But the 6-foot-8 star didn't make a basket until the second half, then committed the foul that gave Louisville a chance to win.
''I'm just sad,'' Griner said when asked what she felt. ''I didn't do what I needed to do to get my team to the Elite 8. And, just disappointment in myself.''
Odyssey Sims scored 29 points and hit a pair of free throws with 9.1 seconds left to give the Lady Bears (34-2) their only lead of the game.
Reid caught an inbounds pass near the baseline after that and went coast to coast before getting fouled by Griner on her way to the basket.
''I saw Griner coming at me and I was like, `I'm going to have to get past her.' I tried to make the layup and she took my head off,'' Reid said.
Sims had one last chance to save Baylor's season after Reid's free throws but was off-target and late on a desperation heave.
It was a stunning end of a remarkable college career for Griner, the second-highest scoring player in NCAA history. She also holds the career records for blocks and dunks.
No Griner and Baylor in Final Four really diminishes FF. Baylor is the best team. Need a best-of-three. Damn.— Jason Whitlock (@WhitlockJason) April 1, 2013
Baylor coach Kim Mulkey wasn't the only one pissed at how it went down and calling out the refs. Baylor alum RG3 was ready to do a touchdown dance on someone's head. Check out his Twitter rant:
.....3 roundhouse kicks, 2 jumping knees, & 1 superman punch at B. Griner's abdominals. Aiming for her face but couldn't reach— Robert Griffin III (@RGIII) April 1, 2013
Tough way to go out for Griner, who fought back tears during her postgame interview. We'd rather remember her like this.
And it was hard to tell whether the Louisville women were more excited about the upset or the NBA superstar who surprised them in their locker room.
FAB FOUR FOR MICHIGAN
It was bad news for FOX Sports' Erin Andrews, a Florida alum who had to change her Twitter avatar.
The Wolverines reached their first Final Four since the Fab Five era behind freshmen Nick Stauskas, Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III, who got them going against the Gators with 29 first-half points to open a double-digit lead. Stauskas finished 6 for 6 on 3-pointers for 22 points while star guard Trey Burke, who was scoreless in the first half against Kansas in the Sweet 16, had 11 first-half points and finished with 15.
Florida's defense wasn't as effective against Michigan, which averages fewer than 10 turnovers, best in the tourney, and the Gators checked out in the Elite Eight for the third straight year.
Michigan is full of NBA bloodlines, with Robinson, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jon Horford, (Check out some other famous sons who play college hoops) and fab freshmen. (See some of this season's other first-year phenoms)
What does it look like playing basketball in Cowboys Stadium? Like this:
Good thing the scoreboard is so big, 'cause the Gators did a lot of this.
Emotional day for Rasheed Sulaimon and Duke, too.