Guard Kevin Ware challenged a 3-point shot by Duke’s Tyler Thornton in the first half of the Midwest regional, unfortunately Ware landed awkwardly and gruesomely broke his tibia.
It was a compound fracture, bone protruding far through the skin, which Ware looked down and saw. It was the ugliest thing most anyone in the gym had ever seen in person on a basketball court.
The snap of the leg was so loud that Smith heard it.
“It was really hard for me to pull myself together,” Smith said, “because I didn’t ever think in a million years I would see something like that.”
The sight of the bone was unreal but unmistakable.
“Literally out,” Behanan said. “I saw white.”
The Cardinals won the game. They dominated Duke in the second half, pulling away for an 85-63 victory and their second-straight Final Four trip.
Louisville (33-5) has won its four NCAA games by an average margin of nearly 22 points, capped by a second-half blowout of Duke after the Cardinals shook off the incredible shock of Ware's injury with about 6 1/2 minutes to go before halftime.
"We won this for him," coach Rick Pitino said.
The Final Four is set.
Top overall seed Louisville will face Wichita State at the Georgia Dome next Saturday, while Michigan takes on Syracuse in the other national semifinal. The winners advance to the April 8 championship.