But this amazing story must be analyzed, right? Or, at least considered, if beyond any empirical explanation.
Okay, let’s start here. With 11:39 to play, the Cards, in a tailspin had called timeout. It was to no immediate avail. Louisville had held a stunning ten point lead not long before. But it had squandered a golden opportunity when State threw away an inbounds pass out of a timeout. The margin was down to six when The Rick gathered the troops. Then, with 10:55 to go, after a Draymond Green slam following an offensive rebound, the margin had been whittled to four.
This was the moment during this amazing U of L post-season streak that fans had been ruing, the moment when reality rears its ugly head, the moment when we shake our heads, be grateful for the surprising delight of the last few weeks, then head to the garden store for mulch and grass seed.
Ah, but as the Isley Brothers say, “Waaay aaay aaait a minute!”
Actually, it took only 59 seconds.
Here’s what happened. At the 10:19 mark, Chane Behanan dunked a deuce off a Peyton Siva pass. Gorgui Dieng perpetrated one of his 7 blocked shots, and grabbed the rebound. Which was followed by Chris Smith threeball. Assist to that Siva kid. Smith then stole the ball from Keith Appling, and assisted on a Kyle Kuric reverse layup.
With 9:20 to play, the scoreboard read Louisville 42, Michigan State 31.
“Stand up and shout now!”
* * * * *
The W was good. Duh. (Why do I even write something so obvious? Well, I know. Louisville will compete on the morrow for a spot in the Final Four and it makes one’s thought processes go all wackamundo.
The margin, dumbfounding.
Especially, given the fact that U of L started the game hitting — actually not hitting — at a disturbing 1/12 clip from the field. Even in Biddy Basketball, it’s hard to win when making only 8% of your shots.
The Cards took 4:17 to hit their first bucket. Another 4:31 to make their second.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that second basket tied the tilt at 5. Sparty wasn’t exactly draining the rock either. Good D can keep you in games. It sure did last night.
Draymond Green — a monster all night with 13 points and 16 rebounds — answered with a quick slam to retake a two-point lead.
A few seconds later, Russ Smith hit a trey on an assist by Siva after a Jared Swopshire offensive rebound to give U of L an 8-7 lead . . . which it NEVER relinquised.
No matter what the #1 seeded, Big Ten champion Michigan State Spartans threw at Louisville the rest of the way, it was not enough to seize an advantage.
The Cardinals never broke, rarely bent and kept Sparty measured for the duration.
Allow me to repeat: Stunning.
* * * * *
It should have been apparent the night belonged to the InfraRed when Jared Swopshire hit his second three at the halftime buzzer to give Louisville a five point lead.
That U of L held a 22-16 advantage off the glass at the break was also a fine sign.
* * * * *
Sparty scored 44 points. Consider that miniscule number for a second. They hit only 14 of 49 shots. Did I mention that U of L played what the announcers might call “some kind of defense?”
Chane Behanan had 15 points, 9 boards and 3 steals.
Peyton Siva 9 assists, 3 rebounds and a monster slam on an alley oop.
Russ Smith had 11 points, 3 assists and 2 offensive rebounds, one a deuce on a missed FT after Kyle Kuric kept it alive.
Chris Smith hit 3/6 treys and grabbed 5 rebounds.
Swop hit those threes, had a couple offensive boards, and a couple of steals.
And, mere numbers cannot describe how Gorgui Dieng controlled this game. He was simply The Man. It was a FabMeloulous performance.
Alright. 9 major rebounds. 7 game changing blocks. No telling how many altered possessions by the Green. And that lovely trey from straight away.
* * * * *
As it has been for 7 Ws in a row, Rick Pitino’s coaching was impeccable. From planning to execution to motivation to XXXs & OOOs, it was again a bravura performance.
But he sure couldn’t help but be The Rick in a post game interview with the C-J guys, talking about how the Cards played man to man, 85% of the game or something like that.
ESPN Stats reports that Louisville played zone on 45 of 48 State possessions. Why do The Rick feel compelled to fib like that?
* * * * *
I would be remiss if I didn’t complain about something.
But certainly nothing the Cards did.
I hate hate hate those awful moving camera angles the TV producer feels compelled to use from time to time. Not only do they make me dizzy, but they add not a thing to watching the game. I can’t recall any fans clamoring for seats hovering over the court.
Ladies and gentlemen in the trailer, just because you have a tool at your disposal doesn’t mean you have to use it.
* * * * *
Tomorrow afternoon, the University of Louisville Cardinals will play Billy Donovan’s Florida Gators in the Elite Eight for a spot in the Final Four.
– Seedy K