At 11:47 PM Wednesday evening in Brooklyn, the clock struck Midnight.
13 minutes. Poetic.
No glass slipper to be found, the interlopers were escorted from the ball.
Louisville 50, Virginia 51.
It was closer than that.
In the final game of a season U of L fans shall not remember fondly, the Cardinal basketball team walked off the court worthy of the hallowed jerseys they wore.
All matters considered, this fellow can ask no more.
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To provide context for my praise of U of L’s effort in their ACC tourney/ season finale, I need to consider UVa.
Tony Bennett is the premier coach of the what is traditionally the premier league in college hoops. Louisville is not the only league foe for which the Wahoos are arch nemeses.
He won a national championship, fashioning close victory after close victory. A mere babe at the time, Kihei Clark, the best player on the floor Wednesday, presciently made the brilliant play against Purdue in the regional final at the end of regulation that allowed that run to continue. He knows how to win.
Reece Beekman is the next fresh face in Charlottesville. He made the key plays to secure the W against the Cards. At both ends of the court.
When they absolutely positively needed to convert at the charity stripe in the final seconds to seal victory, Jayden Clark did so.
A mediocre UVa team knew institutionally how to survive in the direst of basketball circumstances.
So they did in the back and forth struggle. By a digit.
The Cardinals trundled off the hardwood, heads bowed. I hope they can feel from back home that one long time diehard went to bed proud of their efforts.
U of L played basketball.
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I’m going to mention names here.
Do not for a nanosecond think I’m blaming any Cardinal a whit for the defeat. I simply want to try to explain how narrow the fault line between W and L.
Down 45-49 with thirtyish seconds to go, Noah Locke, a spot up, catch and shoot guy, was forced by the aforesaid Beekman to put it on the floor. Travel. Top level coaching, scouting, execution manifest.
But that late Louisville is not even within reach of victory but for Noah Locke.
U of L had a tweedly start to the 2d, which commenced with the Cards up four. Seven straight points pushed UVa up three.
Locke’s immediate answer from distance was humongous. If the Cards don’t tie it there, it’s game over.
Down 42-45 with a couple minutes left, Malik Williams stole the rock. Which lead to another Locke triple to tie it. Again, huge.
Naismithius giveth. Naismithius taketh away.
My point is again not to diss the Cardinal, any Cardinal for their effort Wednesday, but to underscore the narrow latitude between victory and defeat.
As marvelous as Clark was for Virginia, Jarrod West’s dogged D made him bust his hump for every score. The Card senior needed a blow late. On the next possession, down by one, when he would have been handling the rock, his sub Mason Faulkner committed his only turnover of the game, an offensive foul.
But for this. But for that.
UVa knew how to win. Its admirable effort with purpose notwithstanding, Louisville . . .
* * * * *
Malik Williams scored 11 points, grabbed 13 rebounds, committed not a single turnover.
Sam Williamson scored 9 points, snared 3 caroms, had two picks.
Sydney Curry never really got untracked because of foul trouble, and UVa’s stellar scouting. His line read 6 and 7.
We learned finally why Dre Davis saw no action against Tech. Ankle issues.
He, along with every other Cardinal on the court, played consistently solid, relentless defense.
* * * * *
I’m not sure what the future holds for Mike Pegues.
But, for two games in Brooklyn, he exacted every ounce of excellence this flawed squad possesses.
Considering how U of L had been playing in the last month, it was borderline brilliant, one guy’s take.
“All I ever wanted when the transition happened was for our guys to run through the tape to finish strong and give it everything they had. And that’s exactly what they did, evidenced by our performance tonight
“We had some rocky times, no doubt. But I won’t remember that as much as I remember these guys standing tall and fighting and persevering.”
So we bid adieu to this 13-19 campaign.
This is the way the season ends, not with a bang.
Nor with a whimper.
— c d kaplan