At least for me.
With the ’14-’15 season just the other side of the polar vortex — There it is camouflaged by yet another set of “special uniforms” you’ll soon be able to buy at an authorized emporium in your neighborhood — only double digit hours away, I’m trying to conjure the spirit forces of past successes for this year’s edition of the Cards.
For perspective only, I advise — yet again — that I attended my first U of L game at the Armory (Louisville Gardens) on 12/08/52. Louisville 89, Purdue 85. I haven’t missed but a handful of home games since.
Anyway, here are my ten favorite Cardinal games of all time. Not necessarily U of L’s best performances. Or biggest surprises. Or biggest comebacks. Not necessarily the most important.
That said, frankly, when I review the list, those character traits turn up more often than not. Makes sense.
You got some of yours that aren’t on the list? Tell me about ’em in the Comments Section below.
Here are my Top 10. (Plus some honorably mentioned):
1. Louisville 59, UCLA 54 (3/24/80). Less than artful, but, still it is Cards first NCAA title. Could there be any other choice for a long time fan? Correct answer: No! It took so long, but felt so good. Over the mighty Bruins. Grif keeps his promise to bring a title home, nails go ahead jumper. “Wiley and Derek Wins NCAA.” Wiley loses thumb. Thumb found by manager in dumpster. At Market Square Arena in Indy (which also hosted Elvis’s last concert). Celebrate the next morning at Shapiro’s Deli, which has been sacred ground since.
2. Louisville 82, Michigan 76 (4/8/13). Peyton wills Cards to 3d title. The Rick finally brings one home. After decades of waiting, Louisville returns to the top of college hoops universe. Wolverines Chane Chane Chaned on the boards. Luuuuuuuuuke!!!! “And, just like that, the Cardinals take the lead.”
3. Louisville 80, Kentucky 68 (3/26/83). Knoxville. The one and only Dream Game. “WAR!” The plates shift under the dark and bloody ground. Fault line shake. Overtime. Had to be. Rodney on chair, leading C*A*R*D*S cheer. Governor in a blazer, half red, half blue. Cheerleaders, arm in arm, singing “My Old Kentucky Home.” If you weren’t there, you can’t really understand. The. Game. Changed. People’s. Lives.
4. Louisville 72, Duke 69 (3/31/86). Big D. Cards’ second NC2A crown. Billy T shuts up the naysayers. Never Nervous grabs biggest board in Cardinal history. Puts it back for game sealer. Billy Packer declares U of L “team of the decade.” True dat.
5. Louisville 75, Indiana 64 (11/24/84). Season opener in Bloomington. Bobby Knight’s Hoosiers ranked #4. Scored seats in fourth row midcourt. Every time Milt touches the ball, the wisenheimber behind me yells, “Put a little mustard on that hot dog.” At the final horn, I turn and without saying a thing, hand the guy a package of mustard from the concession stand.
6. Louisville 93, Dayton 80 (3/24/56). NIT title, when it truly means something. Marty Glickman from The Garden. Cards best #3 ranked Flyers. For third time that season. By largest margin. U of L led by fellow Atherton grad, Charlie Tyra, tourney MVP. Fire truck parade downtown. Ride my bike to Larry Cunningham’s house to celebrate. C-ham was a Cats’ fan.
7. Louisville 76, Kentucky 61 (3/13/59). Friday the 13th for defending #2 ranked Wildcats. McGaw Hall, Evanston, NC2A Mideast semi-final. Cards, who get in tourney with 16-10 regular season record. Down 15 early, still behind 28-36 at half. Outscore Rupp’s defending national champs by 23 after the break. Repeat: U of L out tallies UK by 23 in the second half. The Baron to his ballers, “They’re gonna go out to eat T-Bone steaks, you’re gonna have hamburgers, and be glad you’re getting that.”
8. Louisville 93, West Virginia 85 (3/26/05). Albuquerque. Regional Final. Pittsnoggle this, Mountaineers. Beilein’s bombardiers grab early lead. Big early lead. My gang’s watching in Hummel Dome. Randy the Shrink remains calm throughout. Assures W. Cardinal Meter cranked to 11. In OT, West Virginia’s gassed. Cards, fresh, roll to first Final Four for The Rick at U of L.
9. Louisville 78, Syracuse 61 (3/16/13). Springboard to national crown. Big Big East tourney final comeback. Down 16 after the break, Cards outscore ‘Cuse on 41-10 run. “It was city defense. Pitino defense. Chain-link fence defense. No blood, no foul defense. Ninety-four feet defense.” You got a cold? The sniffles? Watch it now, it’ll cure your ills.
10. Louisville 78, Syracuse 68 (3/06/10. Sayonara Freedom Hall. “Are you kidding me?” Kyle Kuric slams top-ranked Orange. The loudest Freedom Hall . . . ever.
A few other tilts that just missed the cut:
Louisville 70, Eastern Ky 69 (1/04/61). On a high school night with The Professor. Zebra Max Macon stops the clock, giving U of L a chance for one last final second inbounds play. Ron Rubenstein drills the winner from the corner. “Cards win by a nose.” Maroons pissed at loss in what was a big rivalry of the era.
Louisville 66, Dayton 64 (1/28/56). (Revised: Thanks to eagle eyed reader, I have corrected my faulty memory. When first posted I listed Harold Andrews as the Cardinal who hit the game winner. I was confusing it with another later Cardinal W over the Flyers. Andrews was a freshman during ’55-’56 season, so he didn’t play on the varsity until the next season.) First time a Cardinal away game is televised. Flyers ranked #2. Dayton native Jim Morgan cans winning jumper. (It was actually a most-unusual-for-the-time TV doubleheader. #7 Vandy beat #3 UK 81-73 in Nashville in other game.)
Louisville 50, Southern Illinois 53 (1/11/67). The only L on the list. Lots of Card fans follow Unseld, Beard and gang to Carbondale. Victors, technically a Div. II team then, led by Clyde Frazier, later bypass DII post-season tourney and capture NIT. During game, Cardinal footballer Brad Evans keeps bellowing “The Salukis are dogs.” Louisville contingent needs police escort to safely exit the arena. Cards had beaten SIU a month earlier by 4, also in OT.
Louisville 70, Memphis State 69 (3/02/86). Last game of regular season. Tiger Andre Turner misses FTs that would have sealed game, then fouls Milt Wagner with seconds to play. Milt leads cheers with triumphant arms before he shoots and makes winning FTs. Loudest Cardinal crowd ever (until #10 above).
Louisville 75, Memphis State 74 (3/12/05). Darius Washington. And his coach, a guy with a familiar face, who tries to comfort him after he chokes at the FT line with 00:00 on clock.
Louisville 83, Memphis State 72 (3/11/72) MVC playoff game in Nashville. Vandy’s gym is full, 1/2 blue, 1/2 red. Cards win, go to NCAA, and Final Four in Denny Crum’s first season. Memphis State row, row, rows its way down loser stream with Hans & Franz.
Okay, I guess those games against Kentucky and Memphis State do mean a bit more than the others.
— Seedy K