Long before the Louisville Cardinals defeated the Michigan Wolverines 82-76 to win the national title, Rick Pitino's squad was in danger of being run out of the building. Michigan's Spike Albrecht was playing the game of his life, and the Wolverines appeared poised to close the half up by double digits.
Enter Luke Hancock, who got his team back into the game by hitting four three-pointers in the final three minutes to cut the Michigan lead to one point at the half.
Hancock would finish with 22 points, the Most Outstanding Player trophy and a place in Louisville history. As SB Nation's Louisville blog Card Chronicle writes, it wasn't long ago that the fans wished he would never see the court.
Cardinal fans quickly took to the Internet to declare that Hancock "wasn't a Louisville caliber player." There were also a handful of instances at home games where the "oooos" from the crowd weren't shows of support in the form of a first-name cheer.
While Hancock erased doubts for most across the country with his Final Four performances, it was his reaction to the Kevin Ware injury that began to endear him to the Louisville faithful. As Card Chronicle recalls, Hancock rushed over to his injured teammate and said a prayer.
Ware, who was attempting to fight off shock at the time, expressed days later just how much Hancock's actions allowed him to stay strong in front of the rest of his teammates.
"I really, really want to thank Luke," Ware said at a press conference three days later. "Because Luke jumped right on the scene like the captain that he is and just said a prayer for me. When he was saying that prayer what was going through my head was I'm either going to cry and my team is going to be devastated and we probably won't win this game or I'm going to just try to say some words to get us through."
No matter what happened in Atlanta, Hancock was a true Cardinal in the fans' eyes after that moment. Luckily for Louisville, though, Hancock wasn't done.
The "role player" had his two highest point totals of the season in his final two games, and on a team full of potential NBA players, it was his performance that will never be forgotten.