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FINALS WATCH: Louisville wins national title, Record crowd, Webber sighting, Sandy Hook

  • 35dee663f362810b2e0f6a706700a6ba.jpg

    Louisville head coach Rick Pitino reacts to play against the Michigan during the first half of the NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball championship game Monday, April 8, 2013, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip) (The Associated Press)

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    Louisville guard Russ Smith (2) and Michigan guard Nik Stauskas (11) work for a loose ball during the first half of the NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball championship game Monday, April 8, 2013, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip) (The Associated Press)

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    Louisville guard/forward Luke Hancock (11) loses the ball as Michigan forward Glenn Robinson III (1) and Michigan guard Nik Stauskas (11) defend during the first half of the NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball championship game Monday, April 8, 2013, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip) (The Associated Press)

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    Louisville guard/forward Luke Hancock (11) reacts to play against the Michigan during the first half of the NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball championship game Monday, April 8, 2013, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) (The Associated Press)

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    Michigan guard Spike Albrecht (2) reacts against the Louisville during the first half of the NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball championship game Monday, April 8, 2013, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall) (The Associated Press)

Around the Final Four and its host city with journalists from The Associated Press bringing the flavor and details of everything surrounding the games.

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LOUISVILLE WINS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP

Rick Pitino has history.

The Cardinals' coach became the first to win titles at two different schools, adding to the one he won with Kentucky by leading Louisville to a 82-75 victory over Michigan on Monday night.

Louisville trailed by 12 early in the game, but turned up the pressure on defense, kept up their hot shooting on offense and made enough free throws down the stretch to put away the Wolverines.

Luke Hancock, who led Louisville with 22 points, made two foul shots with 29.8 seconds left for an 80-74 lead. And after Tim Hardaway Jr. scored at the other end for Michigan, Peyton Siva added two more foul shots with 12.9 seconds to go to seal the game.

Trey Burke's 3-pointer in the closing seconds missed everything and went out of bounds, and the Cardinals started to celebrate as Russ Smith was fouled with 2 seconds left.

When the buzzer sounded, the Cardinals rushed to center court and began jumping as fireworks exploded in the Georgia Dome and confetti fell onto the floor.

— Dave Skretta — http://twitter.com/@APdaveskretta

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LOUISVILLE'S RALLY

Louisville has stormed back and taken the lead since trailing Michigan by 12 points in the first half of Monday night's championship game.

Michigan led the top-seeded Cardinals 33-21 in the first half. The Cardinals recovered to lead 71-64 with 4:34 remaining — a 19-point turnaround.

Luke Hancock started the comeback with 16 points in the first half.

— Charles Odum — http://twitter.com/@CharlesOdum

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RECORD TURNOUT

The attendance for Monday night's Louisville-Michigan game at the Georgia Dome is 74,326 — a record for a championship game.

The record may not last long. The 2014 Final Four will be held at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Attendance there could reach 80,000.

— Charles Odum

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FOUL TROUBLE

Foul trouble is starting to mount for Louisville.

Russ Smith and Peyton Siva, the Cardinals' starting guards, each picked up their third foul early in the second half, along with Luke Hancock, who had been hot from the 3-point line.

The foul trouble in the backcourt is especially troublesome for Louisville because of the injury sustained by Kevin Ware, who had been providing valuable minutes off the bench.

Ware broke his leg in the regional finals against Duke.

The Wolverines were in better shape, with only forward Mitch McGary in foul trouble. The big forward picked up his fourth with 9:11 left in the game.

— Dave Skretta

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HOT SHOOTING

So much for that theory about poor shooting in domes.

Michigan and Louisville aren't having any trouble. The teams combined to start the second half 5 of 6 from the field.

The Wolverines took a 38-37 lead into halftime Monday night thanks in part to shooting 50 percent from the field, and 6 of 11 from beyond the arc. Spike Albrecht helped, of course, with his 6-for-7 half and by going 4 for 4 from deep.

The Cardinals aren't doing shabby, either. They were hitting at a 46-percent clip and were 5 of 8 from beyond the arc, led by a 4-for-4 effort from Luke Hancock.

There's long been a belief that shooting in domes is more difficult because depth perception is thrown off by the spacious surroundings. That hasn't been the case tonight.

— Dave Skretta — http://twitter.com/@APdaveskretta

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HALFTIME — MICHIGAN LEADING

It's halftime at the national championship game and Michigan is 20 minutes away from only its second national championship.

Freshman Spike Albrecht is the surprise scoring leader with 17 points as Michigan leads Louisville 38-37 at halftime of Monday night's championship game. Michigan won its only title in 1989.

Michigan, the No. 4 seed, is trying to upset Louisville, the No. 1 seed. Luke Hancock has 16 points for Louisville, which made a late charge to lead 37-36 before Michigan's Glenn Robinson III sank two free throws with 2.5 seconds remaining.

Michigan star Trey Burke scored the first five points on a jumper and 3-pointer and had seven points less than 3 minutes into the game, matching his total from the Wolverines' semifinal win over Syracuse.

— Charles Odum — http://twitter.com/CharlesOdum

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GETTING SPIKED!

Louisville is getting Spiked in the NCAA finals.

As in, Spike Albrecht.

The freshman guard for Michigan has nearly outscored the Cardinals by himself — he had 17 points as the Wolverines raced to a 33-21 lead late in the first half.

Albrecht was 4 for 4 from beyond the arc, running his NCAA tournament to 9 for 9 and matching Sam Cassell of Florida State (1993) for the most 3-pointers without a miss in tourney history.

Albrecht came into the game averaging about 2 points, with nine made 3s all season. His season high had been just seven points.

Late in the half, he got the ball on the wing and pumped faked from beyond the arc, not only bringing his defender off his feet but also about 50,000 fans. Albrecht wisely passed the ball away, but got it back moments later and converted on a nifty driving layup.

He furiously punched the air as Louisville called timeout.

— Dave Skretta

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WEBBER SIGHTING

Former five-time NBA All-Star Chris Webber showed up at the Georgia Dome just about the time Michigan's starting lineup was being introduced before the Wolverines squared off against Louisville in Monday's night's national championship game.

CBS-TV showed Webber arriving at the Georgia Dome and exiting his car minutes before the game. He was wearing a UM hat.

Webber played on Michigan's 1992 and 1993 Final Four teams but a federal investigation revealed that a booster gave Webber and three non-Fab Five players more than $600,000 while they were student-athletes. The NCAA forced the school to dissociate from them until this year. The dissociation officially ends in May.

— Charles Odum

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CLEAN PLAY

There haven't been many whistles blown early on in the championship game.

That's a good thing, too.

After a season in which basketball often resembled wrestling, and in which officials often stole the headlines, it was Michigan and Louisville on center stage at the Georgia Dome.

Only two fouls had been called in the first 7 minutes, 11 seconds, as the teams got into an up-and-down affair that finally looked the way basketball was meant to be played.

Both teams were shooting it well, too. Michigan started off 7 of 11 from the field, while Louisville was 5 for 11 as the second media timeout neared.

— Dave Skretta

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VENUS WILLAMS

Venus Williams' pick is looking pretty good.

The tennis star is using her mother's home state as a good reason to cheer for Michigan against Louisville. The Wolverines are up 38-37 at the half.

Williams said she hasn't watched much of the NCAA tournament but is pulling for Michigan because her mother was born in Saginaw, Mich.

"I'm going with her hometown," Williams said before the game. She is in Atlanta on Monday to promote her athletic clothing line, EleVen.

— Jonathan Landrum — http://twitter.com/@MrLandrum31

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SANDY HOOK

Police Chief Michael Kehoe and some of the other officers from Newton, Conn., who responded to the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School were honored during a timeout in the first half at the Final Four.

The crowd erupted when the officers, dressed in their uniforms, were shown on the video board hanging over the court and on the screens at each end of the Georgia Dome.

Twenty children and six adults were killed in the shooting last December.

— Dave Skretta

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WARE CHEERS

Injured Louisville guard Kevin Ware followed his same pregame routine as in the Cardinals' semifinal win over Wichita State.

Ware, on crutches after having surgery to repair his broken right leg, again was cheered when he took his seat by the Louisville bench. Wearing his white No. 5 jersey, Ware sat beside the elevated court, facing the action, where he could prop up his injured leg on another chair. He stood at the end of Saturday's semifinal win over Wichita State and even shocked his teammates by joining a late-game huddle.

His teammates again wore T-shirts over their jerseys in pregame warmups with the words "Ri5e to the Occasion." A fan raised a sign which read "Rise for 5."

Ware played at Rockdale County High School, about 30 miles east of Atlanta.

— Charles Odum

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MICHIGAN's HOMECOURT

Michigan ought to have a homecourt advantage over Louisville on Monday night.

The maple floor that the teams are playing on in the Georgia Dome was made by Connor Sport Court International at its plant in Amasa, Mich., and the lumber for it came from Timber Products Company, which is based in Munising, Mich.

The court is made up of 4-by-7 foot pieces that were sent by truck to Atlanta, where they were fitted together on an elevated platform in time for the Final Four.

Connor Sport Court also made the court for the women's Final Four in New Orleans.

— Dave Skretta

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MAYWEATHER'S PICK

Floyd Mayweather Jr. won't know until halftime which team he'll pick to win the national basketball championship.

Once the undefeated boxing champion figures it out, he is expecting to place a $50,000 bet toward either Michigan or Louisville in the NCAA title game on Monday night. He thinks the Wolverines have a strong chance to come away with the crown if they're able to sustain an early lead against the Cardinals.gg

"I think that if Michigan gets a lead like that, it's going to be kind of hard to come back," said Mayweather, who is an avid sports fan and often bets on games. He probably should wait as long as he can: He had Indiana winning it all in his bracket.

Mayweather was in Atlanta to promote his upcoming fight against Robert Guerrero on May 4 in Las Vegas.

— Jonathan Landrum

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TRAVIS TRITT

Country musician Travis Tritt has quite the task ahead of him when he performs the national anthem prior to Monday night's national championship between Michigan and Louisville.

The Georgia native will be following a virtuoso performance by the Ebenezer Baptist Church Choir before Saturday night's national semifinals, a rendition that drew almost universal praise from fans, the media and across social media platforms.

Tritt is no stranger to big sporting events. The two-time Grammy Award-winner has performed at two Super Bowls, a World Series and the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, and will be performing for the 15th time during Kentucky Derby festivities next month in Louisville, Ky.

— Dave Skretta

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TICKET PRICES

Fans waiting until the last minute to buy NCAA championship game tickets are paying a steep price.

The average price for Monday night's game had soared to $720, according to TiqIQ.com, which tracks ticket trends. The company says that is a 140-percent increase over last year's final between Kentucky and Kansas in New Orleans.

At Ticketstub.com, prices for Monday night's game were starting at $330 about three hours before the game.

— Charles Odum

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MICHIGAN'S FAB FIVE

One unanswered question at the Final Four: Will there be a reunion of Michigan's Fab Five?

Twenty years ago, the brash group of Michigan youngsters lost to North Carolina in the NCAA title game. This is Michigan's first trip back to the championship game.

Chris Webber's whereabouts are causing the most commotion. Jalen Rose went on a Grantland.com podcast and encouraged Webber to join him and other Fab Five players at Monday night's title game against Louisville, but it's not clear whether that will happen.

Michigan has been recovering from the fallout after a federal investigation revealed that a booster gave Webber and three non-Fab Five players more than $600,000 while they were student-athletes. The NCAA forced the school to dissociate from them until this year. The dissociation officially ends in May.

On Saturday, Webber tweeted "It's Your Time Now!" — along with a picture of current Michigan players Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Glenn Robinson III.

— Noah Trister — http://twitter.com/@noahtrister

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HAIL TO THE VICTORS

Michigan coach John Beilein attended the Final Four in 1989, when the Wolverines last won a national championship, and remembers one thing sticking out in his mind:

"Hail! to the victors valiant

Hail! to the conqu'ring heroes

Hail! Hail! to Michigan

The leaders and best!"

"I heard 'The Victors.' I heard the best fight song in the world," said Beilein, who was then a coach at Division II Le Moyne, and was attending the Final Four in Seattle with his wife, Kathleen.

"Kathleen and I looked at each other and said, 'This is the best fight song I have ever heard," Beilein recalled this week. "That's why it's so eerie to hear it today, that it ended up being my destination."

— Dave Skretta

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NCAA Finals Watch follows the Final Four games and all the activities surrounding the event as seen by journalists from The Associated Press from across Atlanta. It will be updated throughout the day with breaking news and other items of interest. Follow AP reporters on Twitter where available.

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