ATLANTA — All of a sudden, Kevin Ware was in the huddle. It was the second media timeout of the second half, and there he was, surgically repaired leg and all.
“I thought he was about to sub in for me, I’m so used to it,” Louisville guard Peyton Siva said. “He caught me off guard.”
Ware spent the game — won by Louisville, 72-68 — by the Cardinals’ bench, leg on a chair, the CBS cameras attempting to catch his every movement. His teammates had taken the court wearing No. 5 warm-up jerseys to honor the sophomore who broke his leg in last Sunday’s regional final against Duke.
“He’s part of this team,” Siva said. “We know how much it would mean for him to be out there. He just tried to give us whatever we needed, the extra motivation, the extra boost to get over the hump. That’s what he did.
“After the timeout broke — it was a 30-second timeout — just tried to make sure that nobody ran him over because he still has a bum leg.”
Not everyone was quite so happy about the move by Ware.
“Our trainer, he really got upset,” Ware said after the game. “Like, why are you up here? He really couldn’t figure out how I even got up there. I wasn’t thinking. I was honestly just trying to get in the huddle, get around the team.”
Ware thought he saw some things that his teammates didn’t, some pick-and-rolls that were leading to open threes for Wichita State. He let them know, tried to help, even if he couldn’t be on the court.
At one point, Ware was seen with his head down. He was praying for Luke Hancock, the player who ran to his side after his horrific injury, who held his hand and prayed for him.
It was Hancock who came on strong in the second half of Saturday night’s game, who helped the Cardinals get to the final game of the season. And it couldn’t have meant more to the guy on the sideline.
“It meant everything,” Ware said. “Everything.”
After the game, Ware shared a hug with his father, an emotional moment for both.
“He was just telling me how proud of me he was,” Ware said. “To keep my head up.”
Wichita State forward Cleanthony Early lost his older brother, Jamel Glover, to a drowning accident more than two years ago. Early said he had a dream about Glover Thursday night. “Especially when it is someone that close, you always expect for them to be there and especially when it’s certain days like these when you dream about it,” Early said. “You just want him to be by your side today.” . . . Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim suffered his first loss in the national semifinals in four tries. The Orange beat Providence in 1987, Mississippi State in 1996, and Texas in 2003 . . . The first question at Boeheim’s postgame press conference was whether he would return next season. The coach didn’t appreciate that, responding, “Why would you ask that question?” The exchange got testy, and Boeheim finished it with, “I’m not going to answer that question unless you ask every coach that question . . . I’ve never indicated at any time that I’m not coming back next year — ever.” . . . Michigan is the first No. 4 seed to play in the title game since 1997, when Arizona won . . . The Wolverines are 18-0 against nonconference opponents this season . . . Michigan coach JohnBeilein beat Syracuse for the first time in 10 career meetings . . . Amherst (29-2) will make its third appearance in the NCAA Division 3 championship game on Sunday at 12:30 p.m., taking on Mary Hardin-Baylor (27-5) at Philips Arena. At 4 p.m., 30-4 Drury (Mo.) and 32-2 Metropolitan State (Colo.) play for the Division 2 national championship.Amalie Benjamin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.