The Wichita State Shockers weren't perfect against the Louisville Cardinals in the first half Saturday, but they held a 26-25 lead at the halftime of their first Final Four game since 1965.
Wichita State scored the first eight points, and its offense avoided the Cardinals' vaunted full-court press that couldn't establish itself without any out-of-bounds plays off Louisville scores. Russ Smith, who shoots 82 percent from the free-throw line, was 0-for-4 on free-throw attempts in the first three minutes.
The start was impressive enough for former Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson to offer his opinion on Twitter:
good start for the wheat guys— Phil Jackson (@PhilJackson11) April 6, 2013
But once the Cardinals got that elusive first basket—a Smith steal and lay-up—the press got going, and Wichita State fell prey. It took Louisville just over two minutes to score nine unanswered points and take a 9-8 lead with 12:45 to go on a pair of Peyton Siva free throws.
But the Shockers re-established themselves, proving they had the athleticism and skill to hang around once Louisville finally hit its stride (at least on defense). Dunks like this from Cleanthony Early helped:
Both teams struggled from the field, though Louisville improved to finish at 40 percent at halftime. Wichita State was 32.1 percent from the floor.
Louisville had the last shot of the half, but Siva's three-pointer rimmed out.