INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A gruesome injury that left Louisville guard Kevin Ware with a broken leg plunged Lucas Oil Stadium into horrified silence, with coach Rick Pitino wiping away tears and shocked teammates openly weeping during Sunday’s Midwest Regional final.
Ware’s right leg bent in such an awkward and frightening angle that CBS stopped showing replays shortly after the fall in the NCAA tournament matchup against Duke.
“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.”
Viewers who watched the injury on TV reacted on social networks and #KevinWare shot to one of the top worldwide trending topics on Twitter. Video of the injury was posted on YouTube — CBS initially replayed it twice before changing course.
With 6:33 left in the first half, Ware tried to contest a 3-pointer by Tyler Thornton. Ware’s leg buckled when he landed, bending almost at a right angle.
School officials said Ware was taken to Methodist Hospital with a broken lower right leg. Louisville spokesman Kenny Klein said hospital officials told the school that Ware was “resting comfortably” and that the pain was “under control.”
Klein said a team of doctors was being assembled.
One of Ware’s teammates and closest friends, Chane Behanan, spoke with Ware at halftime.
“He said ‘Don’t worry about me, I’m good, I’ll have my surgery tonight,'” Behanan said. “Go win it for me.”
Pitino said Ware’s leg broke in two spots.
“Basically, the bone popped out of the skin,” he said. “It’ll take a year to come back.”
Pitino said it was the same injury former Louisville running back Michael Bush had in football. Bush, now with the Chicago Bears, has recovered to have a productive NFL career.
Ware was taken off the court on a stretcher.
The injury happened right in front of Pitino and the Louisville bench, and several Cardinals were overcome with emotion.
Louisville forward Wayne Blackshear fell to the floor, crying, and Behanan looked as if he was going to be sick on the court, kneeling on his hands and feet. Peyton Siva sat a few feet away, a hand covering his mouth.
Luke Hancock patted Ware’s chest as doctors worked on the sophomore and Russ Smith — who is from New York City like Ware — walked away, pulling his jersey over his eyes.
Someone finally pulled Behanan to his feet, but he doubled over and needed a few seconds to gather himself. As Ware was being loaded onto the stretcher, the Cardinals gathered at midcourt until Pitino called them over, saying that Ware wanted to talk to them before he left.
In the immediate aftermath, those who saw the game on television took to social media to express their concern. Former Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann, who famously sustained a broken leg on “Monday Night Football” in a game against the New York Giants, tweeted that, “Watching Duke/ Louisville my heart goes out to Kevin Ware.”
Louisville, the top overall seed in the tourney, went more than 3 minutes without scoring after the injury but regained its composure to take a 35-32 halftime lead and went on to an 85-63 victory.
“We won this for him,” Pitino said. “We were all choked up with emotion for him. We’ll get him back to normal. We’ve got great doctors, great trainers. We talked about it every timeout, ‘Get Kevin home.'”
Ware, a 6-foot-2 sophomore from the Bronx, was instrumental in Louisville’s victory over Oregon in the regional semifinals. He scored 11 points on 5-for-7 shooting in 25 minutes off the bench.
Behanan switched into Ware’s No. 5 jersey near the end of the game.
Afterward, he kept on it and the Cardinal players led the heavily partisan Louisville crowd in chants of “Kev-in, Kev-in.” Behanan then took the jersey off and continually held it up next to and underneath the Midwest Region championship trophy.
“Kevin’s like a brother to me,” Behannan said. “We’re always together.”
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