ATLANTA — — Wichita State jumped to a big lead, withstood a strong Louisville run, and countered to take a 26-25 lead at halftime of the first NCAA Tournament national semifinal game on Saturday.
By BLAIR KERKHOFF
The Kansas City Star
Peyton Siva's long three-point attempt bounced off the run at the buzzer, and the Cardinals trailed at halftime for the first time in tournament.
The ninth-seeded Shockers scored the game's first eight points. Louisville didn't get on the board until after the first media timeout, and looked like the team playing with stress, and not underdog Wichita State, playing in its first Final Four since 1965.
How edgy were the Cardinals? Russ Smith, an 82.4-percent free throw shooter, went to the line twice in the game's first three minutes, and missed all four shots.
Finally, Louisville got a hoop, a transition bucket by Smith, which started a lightening quick 9-0 run that gave Louisville its first lead.
The Cardinals, the only top-seeded team in the Final Four, seemed poised to make quick work of things. The press was giving Wichita trouble, and it works at maximum capacity after Louisville scores.
But the Shockers dug in and the teams traded buckets for the rest of the half.
Wichita grabbed a 17-13 lead when Tekele Cotton feeding Cleanthony Early for the transition slam. But Smith banged in two of his three triples in the half over the final five minutes, his last one giving Louisville at 25-24 edge.
Wichita State collected five fouls in the first seven minutes, and could have been in serious trouble at that pace. But the Shockers -- and the officials -- operated more smoothly the rest of the half.