As Kevin Ware lay in front of the Louisville bench screaming in anguish after breaking his leg in gruesome fashion during Sunday's game against Duke, one glance at the reaction of his teammates demonstrated how close the Cardinals are.
The four other Louisville players on the court crumpled to the ground and hid their tear-stained eyes in their hands or jerseys to keep from looking at Ware. Players on the Cardinals bench all recoiled in horror and several reportedly even appeared to vomit. And as medical staffers loaded Ware onto a stretcher and prepared to transport him to an Indianapolis hospital, even Louisville coach Rick Pitino had to wipe away tears.
Before Ware left the floor, he called his teammates over to him. CBS sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson said he told the rest of the Louisville players, "Don't worry about me. I'll be OK. You guys go win this thing."
Ware sustained the injury trying to defend a Tyler Thornton 3-pointer with 6:33 left in the first half Sunday's final Elite Eight game and Louisville leading Duke 21-20. CBS showed the replay twice when it happened, but the network made the appropriate decision not to air a close-up shot or to air it again during its halftime show.
We've included a video of the injury at the bottom of the post for those who want to see it, but frankly I recommend not scrolling down that far. It was horrific enough that one of the few athletes who has suffered a similar injury chose to lend his condolences on Twitter as Ware was being taken off the floor and Louisville fans in the stands were chanting his name.
"Watching Duke/ Louisville my heart goes out to Kevin Ware," tweeted ex-Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann.
The timing of the injury could not be worse for Louisville on multiple levels.
Ware, who had played sparingly behind Peyton Siva and Russ Smith during the regular season, has seen his role increase in March. He scored 11 points on 5 of 7 shooting in 25 minutes during Louisville's Sweet 16 win over Oregon on Friday.
It also had to be extremely difficult for Louisville to refocus on the game itself after such a heart-wrenching scene. The Cardinals briefly surrendered the lead to Duke, but they did recover to take a 35-32 edge into the half.
(WARNING: The video below contains graphic footage of Kevin Ware's injury. Viewer discretion is advised.)
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