Chris Dufresne / On College Basketball

For Louisville, injury leads to inspiration in NCAA win over Duke

After Kevin Ware's horrendous mishap, the Cardinals defeat the Blue Devils in the Midwest Regional final of a tournament whose star has been defense.

Tears are part of the NCAA tournament. They flow when teams win and flow when they lose.

The tears shed for Louisville guard Kevin Ware on Sunday, though, were different. They almost spontaneously gushed in response to Ware's gruesome leg break during Sunday's Midwest Regional final game against Duke.

Louisville Coach Rick Pitino was caught on TV wiping his eyes.

"I literally almost threw up," he said after the game.

Duke players, coaches and America's viewers were almost equally stunned.

You wished, for that moment, instant replay had never been invented.

Some of Ware's disbelieving teammates collapsed on the court.

"I never thought in a million years I'd see anything like that," Louisville guard Russ Smith said. "I was completely devastated."

Reaction came in real-time cyberspace. Former Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann, who once had his leg snapped by Lawrence Taylor on "Monday Night Football," tweeted that "my heart goes out to Kevin Ware."

Eric LeGrand, the former Rutgers football player paralyzed a few years ago against Army, tweeted that he was "sending my prayers up for you man."

Ware's injury was a lousy way to cap the last game on Easter weekend, yet, incredibly, Louisville turned the shock into inspiration.

Ware told teammates on his way to an ambulance to "just win the game, just win the game!"

Ware is from Atlanta, the site of next week's Final Four.

"We had to do this for Kevin," senior guard Peyton Siva said. "Coach told us we needed to get him back home."

Louisville left Ware's seat vacant for the rest of the game and then turned the screws on Duke in a relentless second half that restored the tournament to its purest, unbridled, emotional form.

The Cardinals held Duke scoreless for an eight-minute second-half stretch.

Siva and Smith raced like jets up and down the court and Gorgui Dieng, the team's 7-foot center, even knocked down a couple of outside jump shots.

"They wear you down," Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "Those two guards set an amazing pace."

Duke never had a chance. The final score was 85-63.

And so, uneasily, the Final Four was set.

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