Contemplating the Cardinals Trip to Rupp

The holiday joyeux dissipated when, in the middle of last night, it struck me that it was big game week.

I awakened from slumber to relieve myself sometime in the early a.m..

From out of the blue — Literally? Figuratively? — I was humming the Chiffons’ “He’s So Fine” in my mind. But, instead of “Doo lang/ Doo lang/ Doo lang” it was “Juzang/ Juzang/ Juzang.”

Not that I haven’t started obsessing consciously and unconsciously about Arch Rival and will be for the next few days, or anything like that.

So, yeah it’s not just big game week, it’s Big Game Week.

No matter how much levity and maturity I’ve tried to muster through the years about this annual affair, no matter that I really don’t interact with any fervent members of the BBN on a regular basis, no matter how long it’s been clear to me that the outcome does not in the long run affect a season’s success, I. Still. Get. Too. Nervous. Too. Soon.

Especially in years like this, when U of L has to travel to Lexington for the game, but has a justifiably legitimate chance to prevail.

So, what I’ve done is gone back and taken a peak at the Cardinals’ victories in Rupp, since the annual series began after the one and only Dream Game in ’83. Which W is known to most Louisville fans simply as “Knoxville.”

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Saturday’s tilt in Rupp will be the 18th in the series. Of the previous 17, U of L has conquered the Wildcats only 4 times. Against 13 Ls. Uh, not so good.

Which is why in most years, and really this season if I’m being honest, I just want to get it over with, go to dinner with friends, and get on with my real life.

Except that, oh yeah, truth be told, this is my real life.

Plus, though I haven’t seen a line yet, U of L might actually be the favorite.

For which possibility, I beseech ye, Naisthmius, Great Greek God of Hoops, Nooooooo!

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OK, here’s a quick gander at Louisville’s four wins over UK in Rupp.

The Cards won  in ’89 for the first time after three setbacks. Led by LaBradford Smith’s 22 points, the #8 Cards beat an unranked UK squad for the only time when Rick Pitino sat on the blue bench, 86-79. Smith actually got to the FT line 11 times on foreign hardwood, hitting 10.

Jerome Harmon and Everick Sullivan each tallied 16. Keith Williams scored 15. Corn Holden netted 8 with 7 rebounds.

In the series most dumbfounding result, Denny Crum’s worst Cardinal squad (12-20 for the season.) bested the #4 Wildcats in ’97, 79-76. I still don’t understand how or why it happened?

Eric Johnson led the Cards’ scoring with 20. Alex Sanders had 10 points, 10 rebounds.

In 2003, #20 U of L was down five at the half, but came back to beat the second-ranked Cats, 65-56. Otis George had 13 and 8, while Luke Whitehead scored 11 and snared 6 off the glass.

In ’08, unranked Louisville beat the unranked Billy Clyde Gillispie-coached Wildcats, 89-75, even though UK featured two future pros, Patrick Patterson and Jodie Meeks, neither of whom was much of a factor in the game.

(I still hold fast to the opinion that one of the main reasons Gillispie was hired at UK was his Texas Aggies’ W over the Cardinals in Rupp in the NCAA tourney.)

Jerry Smith and Juan Palacios led the Cardinals’ scoring with 17 apiece.

And, well, th-th-that’s all folks. At least when it comes to Feather over Fur in Rupp Arena.

Might Russ Arena become Ryan Arena on Saturday? As my mother who walked the halls during close games would say, “From my mouth to God’s ear.”

And, remember what cousin Harriet’s hubby Larry the stock broker says after touting some newish “sure thing” in the tech sector: “Past performance is no guarantee of future results.”

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While researching this little time killer of a post, I took a peak at the box score from that marvelous afternoon at Stokely in Knoxville. Just for old times’ sake.

The most stunning numbers, for me anyway, are these. U of L missed 16 of its first 20 FG attempts, falling behind 10-23. Yet the Cards finished 34/57 from the field.

Which means the Cards made 30 of their last 37 shots. 81%.

A few other nuggetoids of info. #2 Louisville was a 1 1/2 favorite over #12 UK.

The Cards were down 30-37 at halftime, actually took a five point lead in the 2d, but were tied at 62 at the buzzer on Jim Master’s floater.

The Cardinals scored the first 14 in overtime.

Lancaster Gordon led Louisville with 24, followed by Milt Wagner with 18.

Rodney McCray had 15 and 8. (Easily one of my Top Ten visual memories of Cardinal lore is normally stoic Rodney standing on a bench chair with the game won in OT but time still on the clock, leading the U of L fans in C*A*R*D*S.)

Charles Jones had 12 and 7.

Mel Turpin and Master each had 18 for the losers.

But, there’s only number that really matters, right?

The Final — All together now, we all know it — Louisville 80, Kentucky 68.

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Alright then, I’ve managed to kill a bit of time until the game.

Only 47:51:35 until tip.

But, hey, who’s watching the clock?

— Seedy K