(CNN) — The Louisville Cardinals defeated the Michigan Wolverines, 82-76, to win the NCAA Division I men’s basketball championship Monday night in Atlanta.
The showdown was one for the ages, with a dazzling array of airborne theatrics, jaw-dropping dunks and 3-pointers from well behind the line.
The Cardinals surged from a double-digit deficit in the first half to lead during much of the second half and finally clinch the victory.
Louisville Head Coach Rick Pitino said his team was able to top the Wolverines’ “absolutely incredible” performance “probably because I have the 13 toughest guys I’ve ever coached.”
The Cardinals played without Kevin Ware, the sophomore guard who suffered one of the most grotesque injuries in college sports while playing Duke on March 31.
During a routine block attempt, Ware landed awkwardly and snapped his right shin, drawing gasps of horror as the bone protruded through his skin.
Ware joined his teammates during the championship trophy presentation on crutches.
“These are my brothers, you know. They got the job done, and I’m so proud of them.”
Ware’s teammate Luke Hancock was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, helping pull Louisville out of a 12-point hole to lead the Cardinals with 22 points.
“We just went into war right there against a great Michigan team,” the junior forward said.
Naismith Trophy winner Trey Burke led a ferocious Michigan squad with 24 points, but it wasn’t enough to top No. 1 seed Louisville.
Now, Pitino must live up to a promise he made to his players this season.
“They said, ‘If you win the national championship, coach, you’re getting a tattoo.’ I said, ‘Hell yes, I’m getting a tattoo.'”
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