Louisville Card File: Kentucky

dunikcardFree Throws.

Closing the Deal.

* * * * *

Rare is the team whose fatal flaws — the ones that shall spell ultimate doom — don’t manifest themselves during the course of a long, long season.

There are exceptions. The recent Kemba Walker-led UConn Huskies were certainly were one outfit that overcame previous bouts of malaise to win it all. This year’s Kentucky Wildcats might be another.

The Louisville Cardinals, with 31 Ws against but six losses, proved the rule. Not the exception.

Free Throws.

Closing the Deal.

* * * * *

It was Larry Bird, a fellow who knew a thing or two about winning, who knew more than that about overcoming physical incapabilities, who once opined that missing FTs at the beginning of a game is just as detrimental as those that go awry at crunch time.

Of course, the game might have all played out differently had Wayne Blackshear overcome a season of less than we including he expected by draining both charity tosses at :14, which would have knotted the tilt at 70. Truth is the Cards advantage in the game had long before been frittered away.

Louisville’s largest lead was thirteen at 18-5, 7:28 after tipoff.

But Russ Smith had missed one of 2 at 5-4.

Mango had missed one of 2 at 11-5.

Then as the Wildcats pulled themselves back into the game between then and halftime, U of L missed 7 more FTs. Had the Cardinals simply hit their season average in the first half, they would have been up 7 instead of 3.

Might the game come out differently under that latter scenario? Nobody knows. But the added advantage sure wouldn’t have hurt.

* * * * *

During Louisville’s late season run, when national pundits were puffing that “Louisville is playing better than any team in the country,” the Cards still blew significant late leads against both Memphis State and Cincinnati.

Last night, up 7 with 4:33 left, it was the neophyte Wildcats who made the plays, not the Cards, outscoring the defending champs 15-3.

Uh, period!

* * * * *

Louisville played a marvelous game.1

Yet, despite the injury that left the victors without their main shot-blocking presence Willie Cauley-Stein, and despite a less than stellar performance from long range gunner, James Young, who fouled out, U of L wasn’t able to overcome Kentucky’s superior height, will to perform and talent.

Given their flaws, the Cards had a remarkable run this season. But, as most often happens, those imperfections undermined advancement beyond the Round of 16.2

* * * * *

A tip of the hat to UK.

The Wildcats overcame early jitters. The Wildcats overcame that marvelous tit for tat stretch midway through the second half, when they’d score, shaving the lead, the Louisville would answer, providing some temporary measure.

When push came to shove, Kentucky made shots — 6 or 7 in a row during one stretch — and its FTs, 14/16 in the second half.

John Calipari, as difficult as he is for a Cardinal fan to abide, is doing some serious coaching with his youngsters.

* * * * *

russRuss Smith is/was a gift that kept on giving.

His most lasting memory as a University of Louisville Cardinal may very well be his grace in defeat Friday night.

His comments about and actions toward the winning Wildcats after the traumatic defeat were stunning. They were beyond being simply gracious, they bordered on theological.

It is a lesson to which the fan bases of both bitter rivals should take note.

* * * * *

Louisville finished 31-6.3 More important, the team advanced in the post season to the extent of its abilities.

A fan can ask no more from his favorite team.

* * * * *

In the wake of the news of Kevin Ware’s transfer to another school, I’m reminded of a comment by my pal David earlier in the season. “The Ware stay at Louisville will not come to a good end.”

So it came to pass.

I certainly have no idea what transpired as the season progressed, to the point that last year’s inspiration stopped practicing with the team,, coming to games or traveling along in the NCAA. But it sure was odd.

Rick Pitino’s comment was typically terse, “We wish Kevin godspeed.”

I have to wonder if The Rick, who can cut bait quicker than most, went Rodrick Rhodes on Ware? Or, what else might have been in play?

* * * * *

One final thank you from a long time fan to Luke Hancock, Tim Henderson, Stephan Van Treese and Russ Smith.

God bless you all. Thanks for the great memories.

— Seedy K

5 thoughts on “Louisville Card File: Kentucky

  1. Well put Seedy. We likely were never going to win a championship this year, but as a fan of the Cards for some 40 years, the hardest part wasn’t losing, but coming from ahead to lose, and coming from ahead to lose to our rivals.

  2. Add the 15-3 2nd half close to the 13-7 first half close and you see what happened. Has to be a fatigue factor in there somewhere bangin’ against all those big bodies.
    Luke Hancock has the greatest will to win of any player observed at the college level, anywhere, in a long time. Russ Smith will be missed for many reasons, one being his joy of just playing the game.
    And you got to give credit to a couple of kids who have endured rashes of excrement from fans and foes alike. According to the box I read, the Harrisons played 40 minutes in the 2nd half with -0- turnovers. Doubt a backcourt did that all year vs. the Cards.

  3. Louisville lead for all but 67 seconds of the game….10 seconds in the first few minutes and then the last 57. Missing free throws always hurts in a close game, but when 2 of your 3 best are the ones missing, well, I guess evil sometimes does win. After WCS went out there is no way Cards should/could lose that game. I remain convinced something ran amiss the last 2 weeks as we became less of a team than any time in the last 3 years. Maybe we find out what it was, maybe not.

    Thanks to all the guys. It was a hell of a 3 year ride. Now on to future glory!

  4. I was wrong. Ky led last 40 seconds. They had a lead for 17 seconds before Russ put us up by 1 before Harrison made the 3 at the 40 second mark. Still, we didn’t finish like Seedy says and it came back to bite us it the arse.

  5. It wasn’t just UofL shooting FTs at a much lower % than its season average. UK came into the game around 68% and shot better than 81%. They stepped up. We didn’t.

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