Remember I must, during this sad but inevitable aftermath that befalls 67 of the 68 invitees to the Dance, that reaching potential is the goal, that striving for the greater is admirable, that acceptance of what is, more so.
Remember I must what I’ve thought and written during these Days of Dance, that advancement to the Round of 16 meant this U of L team, given the reality of it limitations, had maxed out; that when it surged a step beyond, it had succeeded past legitimate expectations.
Of course, I am disappointed. But not despondent.
There are those instances from Sunday that I ponder, but, truly, only for a moment.
What if Mango’s second FT near regulation’s end had gone down?
What if Wayne hadn’t dipped his toe in the lane on a missed State FT, allowing the Spartans anther opportunity and another point?
But, those laments dissipate in a blink.
Mathiang fought hard for that rebound of Rozier’s miss with the clock winding down, and, despite being hacked and bumped, his follow shot almost dropped. And his ensuing one all net plus iron FT sent the tilt to OT.
Most of all, I am thinking fondly of Wayne Blackshear.
I’ve been defending him here from the naysayers who have dogged him throughout his career.
In his last game, the Academic All-American played his best game. But for his efforts, Louisville wouldn’t have had the chances to prevail it did.
When the Cards were down 4 with less than two minutes of action left, Blackshear drained a three, the kind of shot that’s almost too wide open. Moments later he nailed two FTs to give U of L a one point advantage.1
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It is a testament to the Cardinals’ resolve that they were even in the game at the end.
They shot only 36% from the field, and squandered 9 chances at the FT line.
Thanks to Jaylen Johnson’s follow tip when Gavin Schilling blocked Terry Rozier’s attempt on the end of half Sosa play, U of L was up 8 at intermission.
Then came one of those vexing fallow interludes that have plagued the Cardinals all season, that became, truth be told, the defining character trait of this edition of U of L hoops.
During the opening two segments of the second half, until the second media timeout at 11:59, U of L’s only score from the field in 7 attempts was a Terry Rozier steal and slam. Plus Wayne Blackshear’s 7 FTs in 7 attempts.
Nine points in 8 minutes, yet the Cards were still playing such dogged defense, they still led 49-47.
Louisville missed 6 of its next 7 FG attempts, yet kept Michigan State at bay. Until the Spartans finally pulled even with 8:57 to play.
That U of L only made 2 shots in 14 attempts to start the second half, but were still tied, is this team in a nutshell. Offensively challenged. Resolute and resilient on defense.
Sparty then spurted ahead because that’s what Tom Izzo’s teams do. This wasn’t wannabe Northern Iowa, or big talk no walk NC State. This was Michigan State, the school that annually overcomes its flaws better than any other.
Yet, the Cardinals never gave in, never gave up.
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That’s how I shall remember the 27 win, 2014-15 University of Louisville Cardinals.
When the nation’s contenders were dwindled down to the Elite, U of L was one of the Eight still standing.
— Seedy K