Louisville CardFile: Northern Kentucky

At intermission, after two quarters when the Louisville Cardinals did little to hide their disdain for playing this NIT game, I ran into a couple I know, outliers amidst the spate of fresh-faced faithful who had filled the lower bowl of the Yum! to cheer on their beleaguered team.

The twosome were big Card fans, and among the few big donor season ticket holders, who chose to continue their support for their squad playing in “the other tournament.”

Yet, when I chatted them up, they were heading toward the exit. They had seen enough.

“We just can’t take it. If the team doesn’t want to be here, we can’t watch.”

Normally I would have morphed into inner scolding parent mode. But didn’t. I understood.

The Cards had sleepwalked through the opening two periods like they really would have rather been under the watchful eyes of a tutor at the Center for Studies and Excellence or whatever that new place is called, boning up for an exam in Advanced Molecular Computer Biometrology.

Playing as if they could give a shit, they trailed the truly mediocre Norse by seven, 23-30.

The Cards “Big 3” — Deng Adel (1/6), Quentin Snider (1/5), and Ray Spalding (1/5) — were a combined 3/16, and had committed 3 of U of L’s 4 turnovers. As a whole unit, Louisville, playing with a yawn, hit but 25% of its shots, and were -2 on the boards to the significantly shorter, lesser visitors.

In fact, I myself had texted a fellow fan during the 2d stanza, and opinionated that it was time to move on from this inglorious campaign.

Enough is enough.

Then something bordering on the almost magical happened.

The “World’s Most Beautiful Arena,” with its fancy schmantzy Club Section bars and egregiously overpriced concessions and commercial-overloaded timeouts, turned into an honest to Peck Hickman gymnasium.

The Palestra. The Armory, where the Cards played regularly the year they won this tourney in ’56. (Absent the blue cloud of cigarette smoke that hovered over the hardwood in those days.)

The upper deck was curtained off for the evening, but the lower bowl was full to the brim with fans who truly love the Cardinals, but don’t have the financial wherewithal to pay the Jurich tariff necessary for season ducats.

But, for twenty bucks a shot, they donned their red & black garb, packed the kids in the station wagon and headed downtown to fill the joint, and cheer on their faves.

If the team didn’t care, they certainly did. The portly fellow in the gray t-shirt in 118, who turned into Rob Hickerson, leading a C A R D S cheer. The sweet elderly couple who as they tried to find their seats in a first ever visit to the Yum! gazed at wonder at the Hall of Fame wall murals and the view out the windows of the receding Ohio.

And the kids, lots of kids, up way past their normal bedtimes, who were going to shout their support until the Cards came home winners.

So it was willed. So it was done.

 * * * * *

Even though each of that trio of Cardinal leaders coughed it up in the opening moments of the 3d, an energetic Adel led a U of L surge that tied the tilt at 36 with 3:36 to play in that stanza.

Implored by the loving throng that wouldn’t stop cheering and wouldn’t sit down, the Cardinals were revitalized, as if they’d been shot up with Five Hour Energy (or something stronger) during the break.

U of L wasn’t playing really well, but at least they were playing as if they cared.

A Ryan McMahon steal out of a Norse timeout led to a Darius Perry breakaway thunderslam and a 45-44 U of L advantage as the 3d closed.

Dickie V’s favorite Cardinal cranked the crowd noise to 11 when he opened scoring in the 4th with a rainbow trey.

Darius Perry then stole the rock, but NKy got it back when the freshman was fouled, but it wasn’t called. Not to be deterred, McMahon immediately picked another pocket, drove it the length of the court and kissed a layup high off the glass through the nets.

Perry completed the takeover of the game with a deuce after another Norse-called stoppage for 52-44 advantage, which ratcheted up to ten with a couple of VJ King FTs at 6:28.

The vanquished didn’t come closer than five the rest of the way.

66-58 was the final.

Even more heartwarming frankly, unlike the usual customers, this crowd mostly didn’t head to the exits until the clock hit zeros, and they could let their team know how much they cared.

 * * * * *

Stars of the Game (in alphabetical order): Fans in the Stands (God bless every last one of them), Ryan McMahon, Darius Perry.

For better or worse, Louisville moves on, and sometime in the next five days will host Middle Tennessee, which shredded Vermont 91-64 in its opener.

Hopefully this downtrodden band of Cardinals will enter the upcoming game with more energy and focus and desire.

— Seedy K

8 thoughts on “Louisville CardFile: Northern Kentucky

  1. if any of the upperclassmen with a thought about next level play for pay (legit pay), a much better showing against an actually good opponent would be a helpful indicator of readiness to merit the investment of GM’s. BTW, I would have included Sutton in SoG , as his floor play, tough attitude and constant effort to hit the boards and SECURE a rebound should be recognized as vital to anything positive the team did
    How nice to feel like we were once again at a U of L college basketball game!

  2. I only went because my 92 year old buddy, Al Benninger, who attends every men’s AND women’s games, guilted me into attending. I’ve been doing the season ticket thing for 40 years. I didn’t want to subject myself to more pain, watching too many players play hero ball, taking one contested shot after another.
    And the second half was another reminder of how these somewhat meaningless NIT games can suddenly turn into Bellarmine games where crowds and players are there for each other. VJ King was actually smiling and clapping his hands on the defensive end of the floor.
    The young lady in front of me couldn’t sit down and had to high five every fan around her. The guy 3 seats down screamed at the refs all game long. Some of those screams were justified. There was an innocent and pure joy in the house.
    I love those pure and passionate fans. I think I used to be one of them and it was fun feeling like I had stepped back in time, returning to the “thrills and excitement “ of Cardinal basketball.

    1. That’s what happens when fans sit and watch the game, as opposed to their watches for the next “Happy Hour” break.

  3. Doug, I sit in the press section in the upper corner of the lower bowl. And, I can be a pretty cranky guy if somebody stands up in front of me and my view is partially blocked or I can’t see to take notes. Those in front of me in the same section, and those just adjacent stood essentially to whole fourth quarter. One guy was so excited he kept walking back and forth into the press section in front of me. It was so great, like you described, I never said a thing and gloried in it. It was a John Tong kind of night.

  4. I was there, too and the 10,000 on hand were as loud as a full house during the season because the fans that are actually there to watch the game were down in the lower area. The crowd was indeed a great sixth man. I’ve never understood why people thing YUM is a difficult place for visitors because a lot of the fans in the lower area applaud like they’re at the opera. But I’ve to disagree with you about the first half. I’m watching the replay and I’m not seeing a lack of effort or hustle. I’m seeing a lot of good looks that didn’t go down and Adel not helping on the weak side defensively but that stuff happened all year long. As the Professor will tell you, “You always look good when you make your shots.” The second half they shot 69%. They were ready and loose before the game. They got them some pride. I like that.

  5. And anyone that calls themselves a “fan” doesn’t walk out on their team when it’s down seven at the half. So that’s it? “We’re behind. I’m unhappy. I’m leaving.” Did they ever consider that UL might possibly miss some shots. If the ball had gone in in the first half, they would have been up by at least 10-12. Or would that not have been enough for them? Don’t come back if that’s all ya got. I sat in front of a guy this year who bitched and complained on every possession. “My God, how can you miss a layup?” “He’s terrible. He was wide open.” On and on. Unfortunately, we have a lot of UL fans that are acting like UK fans. They expect every shot to go in, every free throw made, no turnovers, win by 30 points every time and make it to Final Four. To those “fans”, I say go bowling and tell me why you can’t roll a 300.

  6. Doug, thank you for your missive. Beautiful. It made me realize why all the cr*p hurts so much.

  7. Long time season ticket holder and as a made the rounds on the concourse before tipoff and at halftime I did not see a single face i recognized. If 25% of season ticket holders showed up they would have either sold out or opened the upper deck. Shame on them for turning tail and running. Completly different atmosphere in there last night and i bet most of those fans will be back for the next game (hope it’s Monday night)

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