ATLANTA (AP) — Freshman Spike Albrecht made four 3-pointers to stay perfect from beyond the arc for the tournament and help Michigan run to a 33-21 lead over Louisville with just inside of 4 minutes left in the first half of the national championship game.
Albrecht, who averages under eight minutes and two points a game, had 17 with time still left in the first half. He was 6 of 7 overall from the floor.
Player of the Year Trey Burke scored seven points over the first 2:44 for the Wolverines to match his entire output from Saturday night's semifinal. But he also drew his second foul with 11:09 and was lifted from the game by coach John Beilein.
Not to worry. With his shooting streak, Albrecht improved to 9-for-9 from long range so far in the tournament. He hasn't missed a 3-pointer since March 3. Before this game, he had only scored 67 points all season.
Wayne Blackshear had five points for Louisville, which was having trouble matching Michigan shot-for-shot. The Wolverines were shooting 52 percent, while the Cardinals were at 39.
Watching from the stands were all five members of the Fab Five, the brash group of sophomores who led Michigan (31-7) to the final in 1993 — the program's last appearance at the Final Four.
That included Chris Webber, who infamously called a timeout the Wolverines didn't have at the end of Michigan's 77-71 loss to North Carolina in the 1993 final. He has had very little to do with his alma mater in recent years, but was seen getting out of his car and heading into the Georgia Dome shortly before tip-off.
Top-seeded Louisville (34-5) is trying to bring its first title back to the state of Kentucky's "other" school since 1986. Sitting on the bench with the Cardinals is sophomore guard Kevin Ware, the team's inspiration since snapping his tibia in the regional final last weekend.
Cardinals coach Rick Pitino is working the sideline hours after being named to the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame.
Pitino is trying to become the first coach to lead two programs to national championships. He took Kentucky to the title in 1996.
Russ Smith, the Louisville team leader who Pitino has nicknamed "Russdiculous" for some of his wild — and wildly effective — antics on the court, scores 18.9 points a game for the Cardinals during the season but has picked up the scoring in the tournament, averaging 25 in the five Louisville wins.
The Cardinals are playing without their main reserve, Ware, who broke his leg in the regional final against Duke. Needing a pickup without Ware, reserve swingman Luke Hancock scored 20 points in the 72-68 win over Wichita State. And rarely used walk-on Tim Henderson made two key 3-pointers during the comeback.
"The other night, we were not going to play in the championship game unless a walk-on steps up and makes a play to give us momentum," Pitino said in a pregame interview.
Michigan topped Syracuse 61-56 on Saturday despite an off night from Burke, who finished with only seven points on 1-for-8 shooting.
Burke, a sophomore, seriously considered leaving for the NBA after last season but decided he had unfinished business left in Ann Arbor. He picked up the AP Player of the Year award, among others, and is now one victory away from the ultimate prize in college hoops.
Before leaving the locker room, Beilein gave his team a pep talk: "You play with poise, play with confidence, you do all those things today and we're going to have one heck of a celebration," he said.
Monday night's game is the final act in what has been an ugly season overall in college hoops, with scoring at its lowest (67.49 points per team) since 1951-52 and shooting at its worst (43.3 percent) since 1964-65. The 131.2-points-per-game average during March Madness is the lowest since the 3-point line was brought to the game in 1987, though the teams were on pace to easily surpass that midway through the first half.