Louisville Card File: Syracuse

When I ran into my pal Harry Saturday morning, I was wearing my retro Loyola Ramblers 1963 NCAA Championship t-shirt.

“I remember that game,” he said. “I watched it with my dad.

“It really taught me something.”


“Loyola was way behind in the second half, right? Then they came back to win.”

His lesson: You know, the old it’s never over til it’s over thing.

Mea culpa. So despondent was I with the Cardinals’ situation last night when they were down 16 with a little over 15 minutes to play, I had abandoned hope for victory. Syracuse has been a curious match up for U of L this season. They are so much longer than the Cardinals, many of the passing lanes are closed and they can launch over outstretched U of L arms even if reasonably contested.

The beginning the second half looked to be more of the same. Carter-Williams was dishing with panache. Triche was taking it to the hoop. Fair and Southerland were launching bombs that landed right on target.

During the 15:34 media timeout, with the Cards down an insurmountable 29-45, my pal Judy, ever the optimist, said “We can still win this game.”

“Judy,” I intoned, “no way we can win this. Not trying to be negative, just realistic.”

So much for my astutivitude.

* * * * *

One hundred sixteen seconds later, that would be at the 13:48 mark, a frowning Jim Boeheim was forced to call timeout, in the wake of a 10 zed Cardinal run.

Having morphed during that interlude from note-taking scribe into my inner not so hidden 12 year old fan, I looked at the TV screen and noticed the score.

“Holy shit, we’re only down 6.”

Judy had a knowing smile on her face.

From that moment until the buzzer, all is a high fiving, are-you-kidding-me blur of Orange miscues and missed shots, Cardinal runouts, Silent L musculature, Hancock free throws, Ware’s Cirque de Soleil aerobatics, Boeheim frowns and Peyton Siva directing the whole movement like Toscanini.

I have notes. Most are indecipherable scribbles. It’s hard to display good penmanship when there is cacophony in the HummelDome (Judy & Dennis’s house where I watched the game with the Usual Suspects), when the fan jumping up and down next to me is shaking my arm in joy.

* * * * *

By the time you read this, the numbers will be ingrained in your head like your kid’s birthdays.

From 16 down to a 17 point W, a 33 point swing in 15:34. A 56-26 2d half scoring advantage. That’s +30, if you’ve misplaced your abacus.

Two — count ‘em — two Orange field goals in that final 15:34, the second of which was a meaningless trey at 1:49 that trimmed U of L’s lead to, uh, only 15.

I’ve been at this a long time, kids, since Dwight Eisenhower was POTUS, and I’ve never seen a Cardinal team doing anything like it. Yeah, yeah, yeah, they came back from 16 down against Memphis State earlier this season. But, hey, that’s just Memphis State in December. They came back from the dead against the West Virginia Pittsnoggles in the regional final. Okay, right.

Hear me again. From 15:34 to 2:03 when Wayne Blackshear drained a trey for a 73-55 lead, a span of 13:31, Louisville outscored a Top 20 team in its favorite venue, playing in front of a jammed adoring Orange crowd awaiting a coronation and a stunned national TV audience . . . Louisville outscored its foe by 35 points.

That’s +2.62 points per minute.

Ladies and gentlemen, that’s more than an explosion, more than a beatdown, that’s an evisceration.

* * * * *

Louisville got 41 points and 16 rebounds off the bench. Harrell was not so silent with 20 and 7. Hancock had 10 and 6. Ware tallied 9.

Stephan Van Treese scored two points and had two boards. But his putback to close the gap to six during that 10 nil run was the harbinger that the game had tilted in a whole different direction.

Gorgui Dieng fashioned an immaculate triple single. 9 points. 9 rebounds. 8 assists.

Peyton Siva shook off his early woes for 11 points, 8 assists, 4 steals, 2 boards, a blocked shot and only 2 turnovers. Which is why he sits with Patrick Ewing in Big East history.

I love that Chane Behanan and Wayne Blackshear, the starting forwards who only played 27 minutes between them, led cheers on the bench.

* * * * *

Rick Pitino’s in game adjustments were, frankly, brilliant.

He totally and unequivocally outcoached his former boss.

It was beautiful to watch. Those of you who often unfavorably compare his gametime adjustments to those of his predecessor, Denny Crum, the master of strategy, best keep those lips zipped this morning.

Did we love when he slapped Kevin Ware on the butt, when #5 drained a trey, fired from right in front of the Cards’ bench?

You betcha.

* * * * *

I’d love to provide more insight and in depth analysis. But, well, you know, it was just too much fun not to immerse myself in the emotion of it all.

I intend to watch the game again.

* * * * *

All our ecstasy notwithstanding, it is but one win.

The real deal starts Thursday.

Do we love that the Cardinals didn’t cut down the nets?

You betcha.

Russ Smith: “We have other nets we want to cut down.”

* * * * *

Remember Rules 1 and 2: “Survive and advance,” and “You only play who(m) you play.”

– Seedy K

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