Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Without Wheat at Full Strength, Louisville Gets Creamed

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Without Wheat at Full Strength, Louisville Gets Creamed

Article excerpt

It's debatable whether Louisville would have been able to beat North Carolina with a healthy DeJuan Wheat.

What's not debatable, though, is that with Wheat hobbling on a sore ankle, Louisville lost plenty in Sunday's East Regional loss to North Carolina.

In fact, Cardinals coach Denny Crum couldn't remember a more serious injury coming at a worse time. "It's bad enough when it's anybody," Crum said after his team had lost 97-74. "But when it's your best player it takes a lot of zip out of your h eart, if nothing else." Wheat hurt his ankle in Friday's semifinal win over Texas. Friday night he couldn't walk. Saturday he was on crutches. Sunday he came to the Carrier Dome determined to play. "It's just the way I am," said Wheat, who started every one of the 136 games Louisville played since he joined the team. It wasn't easy. Treatment took place off and on all day Saturday - and lasting until 1:30 a.m. Sunday. Trainers woke him up at 5:30 a.m. Sunday for more treatment. He took a pain-killing shot before the game, but it wore off at halftime. "I've never been in that much pain in my life," he said. He still somehow managed to play 32 minutes, but made only two of 11 shots - mainly because he couldn't jump to shoot. He also didn't have his quickness, which gave Carolina guards more freedom. Shammond Williams finished with 22 points, and freshman point guard Ed Cota had 13 points and nine assists. "It hampered his lateral quickness, and he had trouble defending penetration, which he usually doesn't," Crum said. "Some of the shots he missed he'd normally make. It hurt not having him able to shoot over the zone because he is a zone buster. "He didn't play bad. He just wasn't up to par." "I hate to go out like this," Wheat said before leaving the locker room on crutches. "But that's life." North Carolina started a frontline that included 7-foot-3 Serge Zwikker, 6-9 Antawn Jamison and 6-9 Ademola Okulaja. Louisville countered with a frontline that was 6-7, 6-6 and 6-6. The Tar Heels took advantage. Defensively, they packed the big guys inside in a zone. "We're a poor shooting team," Louisville guard B. …

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