Louisville Card File: Virginia

joaniecardThere are important games.

Then there are big games.

This is not my delineation, though I wish I’d have postulated it first.

Charles Pierce is my favorite writer, a scribe of storytellng, wordweaving consequence to which I can only aspire. It is from his postulation that I extrapolate.

Big games transcend. Either from tradition through the decades. Or from the reality and ramifications of the now.

While important games have immediate effect in the short run of time, big games live on through the years.

This game, this improbable victory by a lesser Louisville team, this stalwart effort against an immaculate Cavalier squad that contests with a mature, steady unwavering sturdiness, this regular season ending, well- conceived, earnestly executed win, this, my favorite Cardinal game ever at the Yum!, this was a Big Game.

In a season I have previously described as wobbly, the University of Louisville Cardinals, locked in from the opening tip, focused like no time previously this campaign, never wavered, never withered.

There have been some memorable regular season finales through the decades. The comeback against Memphis State in ’86. The dismantlement of #1 Syracuse in the last game at Freedom Hall. They come immediately to mind.

Add Louisville 59, previously once-defeated, second-ranked Virginia 57.

Cherish it, kids, this is why we love college basketball so very much.

* * * * *

Louisville was primed, locked and loaded, scoring the first four times it had the ball, and on 8 of its first nine possessions.

Here’s how it opened for an ensemble that could only generate 13 points in the entire first half at Charlottesville.

Wayne Blackshear trey. A Quentin Snider steal, leading to a Terry Rozier deuce. A three ball by the Cavaliers, immediately matched by the first of Q’s trio of opening stanza long balls. Then a three offensive rebound possession, capped by a Chinanu Onuaku tally. 10-3.

Blackshear’s next long range attempt was in and out. But U of L forged ahead. Trez powered for a lay up. Q bucketed another three. 15-3, Cards.

Timeout UVa.

Uncle Mo stayed on the hardwood in home whites. That Cavalier stop and gather moment was followed by second chance Not So Silent L score, who the trumped himself with a steal and breakaway flush. 19-5.

By which point, the strangely empty wedge of student section at tipoff in the NW corner had filled, the yoga pants crowd, realizing something special was afoot, had put away their cellphones, and even the usually enthusiasm-dampening Kroger Has Mini Balls moments couldn’t quell the energy.

It was a Saturday, Saturday, Saturday Night’s Alright ecstasy-fueled rave.

And Rave on did the Cardinals.

* * * * *

As that Freedom Hall finale mentioned above shall be remembered forever and always as “The Kyle Kuric Game,” this W, notwithstanding the Herculean efforts by every single one of his fellow Cardinals, shall be writ in Cardinal lore as “The Mango Game.”

If there is Silent L evolved into Not So Silent L, there is now Silent K a/k/a Not So Silent K.

His rainbow, nothing but net game winner from the key is an indelible image.

But it was far from his only significant contribution.

With the Cards holding onto a a single digit lead, his offensive rebound led to a Blackshear deuce, pushing the advantage to 45-42.

His arm fully extended, one hand steal with the score knotted at 52, allowed the Cardinals to retake the lead.

So, yeah, he hit a game winner of a lifetime, but his whole game efforts of fortitude were typical of this, the Cardinals’ best performance of the ’14-’15 campaign.

* * * * *

I have written of Mr. Bunny’s Theorem before.

“Do not relinquish the lead.”

What makes this win especially resonant is that Louisville, after leading big early, did fall behind. Twice. Soon after intermission, 36-37 at 14:40; again, 38-40, not many ticks later.

And, then, you know, at 56-57 with :13 to play.

Each time, Louisville answered.

The Cards surrendered eight in a row late, and five in a row late. Had some unproductive interludes.

Each time, Louisville answered.

* * * * *

That U of L was not going to allow itself to falter was best exemplified by Wayne Blackshear, who was playing his final game in the Yum!.

His stat line is far from glossy. The Rick, as is his wont even flush with a big W, didn’t mince words post-game, when the coach ill advisedly blamed the Chicagoan’s D for Brogdan’s go ahead three, the one that appeared the winner, the one the mummed the throng . . . for a bit.

Blackshear missed a couple of “easy” ones through the second half, and an in and out trey, but he, as we say, kept his head up, his eyes on the proverbial prize. It was his flash from the corner to the hoop after Mango’s steal that edged U of L ahead, 54-52.

He had two marvelous assists to Harrell. One, on a give, curl and go. The other on a perfectly executed, old school, classic three on one fastbreak.

* * * * *

So huge were the efforts by Harrell and Rozier, I won’t harp on their propensity to dribble into trouble.

Trez was, bad back begone, “You The Man!!!!”

Twenty points. Twelve rebounds. Three assists. Two steals. A blocked shot.1

My favorite of his moments came after being called for a travel. A dicey call, that one. He stole the ensuing inbound pass, was fouled on his shot and canned 2 FTs for 52-44 lead. Which wasn’t long after he exited the court, went to the tunnel, so Fred Hina, “the world’s best trainer,” could knead out the painful knots from his back.

Rozier registered 11, including that HUGE J to push the score to 56-52. He snared 7 boards, served up 4 assists and stole the rock thrice.

* * * * *

Watching Quentin Snider’s accelerated development over the last couple weeks has been a wonder to behold.

Steady, Unflappable. Confident.

Champaign-Urbana this, Cardinal fans, for a good while last year, he was intent on becoming a Fighting Illini.

Last night, he was integral in a big W over another orange-clad tribe.

Everybody else who took to the hardwood contributed. Nanu. Anton Gill. Anas Mahmoud. Shaqquan Aaron. Jaylen Johnson.2

* * * * *

The ball never stopped moving on offense, even when it wouldn’t drop through the bucket.

The hustle never abated on defense, even when guys were out of place in Pitino’s simplified plan.

The Cards hit 47% (23/49) against the country’s second best D.

Louisville’s 59 points was 20% more that UVa has been giving up per game on the year.

Louisville was 8/10 at the line, which was critical in a two point victory. The visitors were only 7/12. The winners committed but 10 turnovers, while forcing an unlucky 13.

* * * * *

During one of the play stoppages in the second half, the DJ mix included “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

“Here we are now, entertain us.”

And so, in a gallant effort by a flawed but resolute Louisville Cardinal team, they did.

— Seedy K

12 thoughts on “Louisville Card File: Virginia

  1. Mango’s heart was blessed, and he did have a game in which he overcame his propensity to foul and to lose control of the ball. His block of a baseline corner 3-attempt was with arm only extended and didn’t swipe down. Wayne didn’t cower from his coaches. repeated “corrections” about his defense, and the coach realized the guy trying to guard Wane could not, and even though Wayne hadn’t finished several in-close shots after a good post-up and a couple of nice penetrating drives, his number was repeatedly called and each time he picked up the call.
    When the finally raucous crowd thought that, alas the game was over, Mango told the fat lady to wait another 11 seconds or so before she sang !
    [enter lyrics Joy to the World]

    note that I have decided to withhold my negative critique of what kept it from being perfect, recognizing the Navajo need to include a flaw

  2. I sometimes agree with Chuck but that is meaningless because all either of us know about basketball derives from having played for the Sherm when we were on a Mu Sigma team that dominated our JCC league. Chuck”s vertical leap was once measured at two inches and mine was not a lot more!
    But when Kenny agrees with me I feel like I’m on to something. Midway through yesterday’s epic battle I said to Ken: “Rozier isn’t any better than Snider.” To which he responded “he’s not as good as Snider.” I think yesterday must surely have cemented TR’s decision to stay at least one more year, which bodes well for us for the remainder of this year and next, because he is good. But he is certainly not better after his second year than Russ was after his third and he had the good sense to stay.
    As for Silent K, you gotta be so happy for him and, even though I have been critical of Wayne, he put it all on the line and made a great driving layup late.
    As for Silent L, if anyone can name a Cardinal of the past, including Preston Knowles, that plays harder, please put it out there. One can only hope he will be successful in the NBA.

  3. Well said,, Chuckster. First big game I have missed in a long scanned time (travelling in Noreast), so I am depending on you.

    1. Jim, I too missed the game, but thanks to Seedy’s tip, watched on espn3. It’s pretty gd amazing.

  4. I have been attending Cardinal games since 1966. Plenty of “Big Games” over the years. I’ve never heard the crowd any louder than last night.

  5. Saturday’s crowd was indeed the best — and loudest — at the Yum! I have always been of the firm opinion that the highest decibel rating at a U of L game came at the moment Memphis State’s Andre Turner a/k/a Andre Turnover fouled Milt Wagner at the end of the final regulation game in ’86. I now believe that din was matched by noise when Kyle Kuric want off against #1 Syracuse in the last game at Freedom Hall. Which two games, coincidentally or not, I mentioned in my piece. But, you are right, Mike D, don’t bother knockin’, the house was rockin’ Saturday.

    1. I agree about the decibel level at that 1986 Memphis game. I regrettably missed the last game at Freedom Hall. We foolishly scheduled a trip to Florida.

      I believe that the loudest crowd I have ever experienced was the long-ago playoff game in Nashville. Louisville-Memphis. Arena jam-packed with half Cardinals and half Tigers. The noise started an hour before tipoff and never stopped.

  6. That playoff game in Nashville, which I also attended, was certainly loud, and one of my favorite Cardinal games ever. It was the beginning of the Crum era, and a harbinger of the success to come. I remember how all the fans from both sides were there early, the place full at least an hour, maybe more, before tipoff. I remember the Cardinal players in street clothes mingling with fans before going to locker room. I’ve read an interview, where a Memphis State player from that team, recalls sitting in the locker room for a long, long time, feeling the energy of the building swirling outside, getting more and more nervous. Other than the L at Florida in the opener, Crum’s first game, the only two losses during that regular season, and before the two at the Final Four, were to Memphis State. But, when it mattered, in the Nashville playoff, Crum outfoxed Gene Bartow. It wasn’t the first time.

    1. I think in the earlier loss to Memphis State Ron Thomas was out sick. But then again I have CRS.

  7. I listened to the end of the UVA game in our car—lights off, engine running, Paul Rogers on the radio—in the parking lot behind one of the dorms at Centre College. My wife and I took our daughters [both Centre students] to dinner at the Bluebird in Stanford, KY, on Saturday evening. We all listened intently to the final few minutes on the radio, my clever, beautiful daughters in the back seat with their sweet dog between them. A classic Cardinal b-ball victory, listening to the end of this game with my wife and kids will be a very fine memory when I’m an old man. Since I didn’t actually see the game, I really enjoyed your analysis, Seedy.

  8. Sweet story, BlindLuck.

    Being an old fart, I recall many happy moments, listening to games with my dad. U of L over UK in the ’59 NCAA regional.

    The first game I recall hearing, was an NCAA semi-final between Bill Russell’s San Francisco Dons and the Iowa Hawkeyes. All the while, balling in my bedroom. Rolled up socks. Hanger hoop, hooked over the door. Basketball bliss.

    Thanks for the kind words.

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