Sorry, no miracle finishes, no consolation prizes, nothing remotely positive about this last game. Unless one can be relieved that the season is over, allowing fans to move on to other things.
Last game for Damion Lee and Trey Lewis. A few more tears for the University of Louisville transfers, putting the final edits on their brief stint with UofL basketball program. Helping UofL compete for a share of an Atlantic Coast Conference title, still a contender 10 minutes before tipping off their final game.
Unfortunately, the outcome of this game in doubt for less than five minutes, petering out in agonizingly slow motion. Virginia grinding a 10-0 lead before Chinanu Onuaku mercifully hits a free throw. UofL missing its first 11 shots, managing only 16 more points during the half, trailing 29-17 at intermission. When it was finally over, Virginia had hammered Louisville again, 68-48.
The ease with which Virginia humbled UofL in two games this season earned the Cavaliers significant respect from Cardinal fans. Maturity and confidence beyond their years, a stifling defense, among the best in the land. Shouldn’t be too difficult to pencil in Virginia going a long way in those NCAA brackets.
A 23-7 won-lost record not a bad one for team that had to rely on a couple of transfer seniors for leadership, as well as three big guys who couldn’t pass, catch or shoot their collective way out of a paper bag a year ago. So few points returning from the previous season, so many players lacking defensive savvy, playing like freshmen and sophomores they were, working through some savage on-the-job training.
Still, a sad ending, a premature conclusion, a promising season abruptly interrupted and tossed aside because of the immature actions of a few, casting a dark cloud over the program and the campus, obscuring so many positive things happening every day on the University of Louisville campus. A punch in the gut to the collective psyche of everyone associated with the UofL basketball program.
No tears here. Adversity should have the effect of making one stronger, preparing one for future challenges. There will be more blows and down days in the months ahead, expect and be prepared for more remorse. The pain will ease for a while only to return, again and again until the nightmare finally subsides. Learn the lessons, remember them and get stronger.
Maybe one of Rick Pitino’s best coaching jobs ever, proving again that he can still get the maximum out of the personnel available to him. If he’s still around next season, hopefully Pitino won’t have to compete with the numerous diversions plaguing the team this season. There will always be some distractions, as there always are with young men. One thing for certain, however, is that Pitino will ensure that they will be fiercely competitive.