Last night, Peyton Siva and Russ Smith combined to shoot 6-26 from the field, while Gorgui Dieng finished the game without scoring the ball once. No problem, Luke Hancock said, as he dropped 14 points in the second half and 20 overall.
Exactly. Although the 6'6" junior swingman has played an important role off the bench for Louisville this season, nobody expected him delivering his best performance of the year in the National Semifinals. Already with a short-handed bench due to Kevin Ware's injury, Hancock's performance made it seem like he'd been there before.
Turned out, he kinda has. Before transferring to Lousville, Hancock spent two years at George Mason. For those without an extraordinary 2011 tournament memory, YouTube reveals that this isn't the first time that he's been the hero of a tourney game.
Two years ago, it was George Mason needing a clutch shot to upset Villanova. When Louisville needed him to step up, this time for a huge second half performance, he delivered in the only way he knew how.
His full line: 20 points on 6-9 shooting, 3-5 from deep and 5-7 from the line, while adding four rebounds, two assists and two steals. His most important play doesn't even show up on the stat sheet, when he forced a jump ball with Wichita State guard Ron Baker with six seconds left in the game. The possession arrow gave Louisville the ball, who would extend its lead to two possessions and close the book for the Shockers.
Riding 15 wins in its last 16 games, overall no. 1 seed Louisville losing to no. 11 Wichita State would have a massive disappointment, even with the Final Four appearance. The general media consensus was that the miracle run would end against the savage Cardinal defense, but then the Shockers ripped off a 14-5 run to take a 12 point lead with 14:20 left in the half.
Instead of crumbling, Louisville buckled up. After two huge threes from fellow bench mate Tim Henderson, Hancock would add a couple driving layups. With six minutes left, he hit a three pointer that gave Louisville its first second-half lead. He would add another three, a layup and a split from the free throw line before forcing the crucial jump ball.
His teammates recognized his heroics, as they mobbed him at half-court when the buzzer expired. Hancock was averaging just 6.8 points in the tournament before his outburst.
Hancock started eight of the 34 regular season games, and scored a career-high 22 points against Louisville's 5OT marathon against Notre Dame.
His Cardinals bio says that his favorite moment of his athletic career was experiencing Louisville's run to the Final Four last season. It's safe to say that, after 20 points in the biggest game of his life, he might have a new moment to fondly recall.