ATLANTA – Spike Albrecht shined while Trey Burke sat.
After all that, Michigan and Louisville were still pretty much even. Then the Wolverines couldn't stop Louisville in the second half.
With Burke on the bench in early foul trouble, the seldom-used Albrecht scored 17 points in the first half, and the Wolverines led by 12 in Monday night's national title game. But that lead was only one at halftime, and the Cardinals went on to win 82-76.
Albrecht and Burke both played plenty in the second half, but Michigan couldn't prevent Louisville from converting around the basket. Albrecht went scoreless after halftime, leaving Burke – the national player of the year – to try to rally Michigan. He did his best, finishing with 24 points, but it wasn't enough.
In the end, it was the defense that let Michigan down. The Wolverines shot 52 percent from the field and 8-of-18 from 3-point range, but when they fell behind late, they weren't able to string together enough stops for a rally.
Michigan had been vulnerable for much of the season at the defensive end, and Louisville had enough talent and muscle to take advantage. The Cardinals finished with 15 offensive rebounds, and each one seemed more devastating to the Wolverines.
So it was another runner-up finish for Michigan – with the Fab Five in the building, no less.
Albrecht had the time of his life early. With Burke on the bench in foul trouble, the 5-foot-11 backup point guard made all four of his 3-pointers in the first half. Michigan had a 38-37 lead at halftime, thanks to Albrecht's 17 points.
Not bad for a freshman who was averaging 1.8 points per game and whose main job was to relieve some of the ball-handling pressure from Burke.
Albrecht had made all five of his 3-point attempts in the NCAA tournament coming into Monday night's game, and he was 4-for-4 from beyond the arc at the break.
After his second 3-pointer gave Michigan a 17-11 lead, Albrecht was hooting and hollering a bit when he came back downcourt.
Burke picked up his second foul with 11:09 left in the first half and played only 6 minutes before the break.
But Albrecht gave his team a lift. At one point, he went to the floor for a loose ball and somehow threw it some 20 feet ahead to a teammate. The transition chance led to a 3-pointer by Nik Stauskas.
When Albrecht drew a foul with 8:13 to go in the half, Burke was clapping on the bench with a bemused smile on his face, as if he couldn't believe this performance, either.
When Louisville called a timeout to regroup, Burke ran quickly over to his backup and gave Albrecht a chest bump while the Wolverines returned to their bench.
Albrecht's previous season high was seven points. His season high for minutes was 15 – until he played 16 in the first half Monday.
But once Louisville found a comfort zone offensively, the Wolverines needed more. Burke drove relentlessly to the basket late, hitting the floor hard on a couple of occasions, but unlike in the regional semifinals against Kansas, Michigan couldn't overcome a late deficit.
Most Outstanding Player of Final Four
• Luke Hancock, Louisville, 42 points total in semifinal and championship games.
Did you know?
• Louisville has had two other players win the Most Outstanding Player. They are Pervis Ellison (1986) and Darrell Griffith (1980).