NCAA Notebook: Ware's horrific injury stops everyone cold
The play quieted the raucous crowd of 34,657 in Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday.
It brought Louisville’s players to their knees in tears and caused Duke’s players to wince and look away before gathering at their end of the court.
With a little more than six minutes left in the first half of Sunday’s NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional championship game, Louisville’s Kevin Ware suffered a compound fracture of his right leg after he leaped and tried to block Duke guard Tyler Thornton’s 3-point shot.
Ware, a reserve guard, soared past Thornton and landed on his right leg, which buckled awkwardly. The bone, broken in two places, protruded through Ware’s skin between his knee and ankle as he lay on his back in front of Louisville’s bench.
“I was running back on defense and I just saw his leg in the air,” Thornton said. “I hate looking at stuff like that. My heart just dropped when I saw it. Prayers go up to him and his family.”
CBS television stopped showing replays of the gruesome incident after the extent of Ware’s injury became apparent. The network released a statement saying it would not show any more replays of the play.
Louisville coach Rick Pitino asked the officials to stop play so the medical staff could tend to Ware. The officials did so with 6:33 left in the first half.
“I went over and I was going to help him up,” Pitino said. “And then all of a sudden, I saw what it was. And I literally almost threw up. And then I just wanted to try to get a towel to get it over it.”
Ware’s teammates were visibly emotional, many crying and dropping to their knees on the court.
”When he landed, I heard it,” Louisville guard Russ Smith said. “I heard it and ... then I seen what happened come out and I immediately just, just like fell.”
Medical personnel brought a stretcher on the court while play was delayed. The Cardinals gathered around Ware as he was lifted up to be taken off the court.
“The bone’s 6 inches out of his leg and all he`s yelling is, `Win the game, win the game,’” Pitino said. “I’ve not seen that in my life. ... Pretty special young man.”
Ware was taken to Methodist Hospital where he had surgery Sunday night. Pitino and his son, former Louisville assistant and current Florida International head coach Richard Pitino, stayed overnight in Indianapolis to be with Ware and his family.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said he told Pitino during the delay that there was no rush to restart the game.
“Whatever decision they made was going to be okay,” Krzyzewski said. “I mean, I could not feel worse that a kid gets hurt in a game. For us or for them. Our prayers are with him.”
Russ Smith was named the most outstanding player of the Midwest Region after he scored a combined 54 points in two wins at Indianapolis. Fighting through a cold that had him coughing during timeouts, Smith scored 31 points against Oregon on Friday and 23 against Duke on Sunday.
“There’s not a better transition guard in the country (than) Smith,” Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski said Saturday. “He’s courageous, plays with great heart. I’m getting old. If I need a transplant, I hope he would give me his.”
Smith was joined on the all-tournament team by teammates Peyton Siva and Gorgui Deng and Duke seniors Mason Plumlee and Seth Curry.
Plumlee combined for 31 points and 19 rebounds over the weekend, while Curry had 29 points in Friday’s win over Michigan State.
WOODEN STILL ON TOP
Duke’s loss dropped Krzyzewski to 11-2 in the Elite Eight and prevented him from joining John Wooden atop the all-time list for Final Four appearances as a head coach. Wooden has 12, while Krzyzewski and Dean Smith have 11. With Louisville’s win, Rick Pitino and Roy Williams now have seven, the second-most among active coaches.
Duke also failed to win its 100th NCAA tournament game, though its .750 winning percentage (99-33) is still the highest of any program.
Duke freshman guard Rasheed Sulaimon had one of his most difficult days of the season, making just 1 of 10 shots while scoring three points.
In the postgame locker room, Sulaimon broke down in tears numerous times as he tried to deal with his emotional pain over the loss that ended Duke’s season.
“Just for our seniors,” Sulaimon said, “that is what is hurting the most. As much as they have done for me and this program, to not walk out as champions, it really hurts me.”