ATLANTA - Kevin Ware couldn't stay seated for this one.
As he watched the way Louisville's backups came through to fill the void following his season-ending injury last week, Ware just had to stand and cheer. He even managed to pull himself up to the elevated court and join a late timeout during Final Four semifinal against Wichita State.
"I was trying to get in the huddle to get around the team," he said. "I was telling the guys (that) defense is going to win this game."
After the Cardinals' 72-68 win, Ware convinced a security guard to allow his father, Kevin Ware Sr., through the crowd. The two embraced in a long hug. Ware said he hadn't seen his father, who lives in New York, "in a year or two."
Only six days before, Ware had surgery to repair a gruesome compound fracture in his right leg. Fans loudly cheered for Ware before the game as the guard, on crutches and surrounded by a crowd of photographers, followed his teammates onto the floor. He was positioned in a chair at the end of the bench, with his injured leg resting on a stack of towels atop another chair.
He wore his No. 5 jersey, red sneakers and red and black camouflage shorts.
"I knew I was going to wear my jersey tonight just to show them I was there for them," Ware said.
'Just the beginning'
Gregg Marshall called Saturday's game against Louisville the most important he'd ever coached, and quite possibly the most important game Wichita State had ever played. If not for the final 10 minutes, when Louisville came back from a 12-point deficit, there would have been a more important one Monday.
"There's such a group in that locker room you grow to love," Marshall said quietly. "But we didn't say, 'Bye,' and we didn't say, 'This is it.' This is just the beginning, just the beginning for us."
Wichita State (30-9) managed to eclipse its season record for wins on the way to becoming the first team from the Missouri Valley Conference to reach the Final Four since Larry Bird and Indiana State in 1979.
Orange stars struggle
Two of Syracuse's best shooters, Michael Carter-Williams and James Southerland, combined for only seven points Saturday in a 61-56 loss to Michigan.
Michigan did such a job on Southerland that, trailing by three with 17.9 seconds to go, Orange coach Jim Boeheim couldn't draw up a play to get the ball to him. Instead, Trevor Cooney drove hard to the basket. He missed and Syracuse never got a chance at the tying shot.
"We were trying to get James, they switched it and Trevor had no choice," Boeheim said. "He did the best he could in that situation."