Author Archive: Charlie Springer
Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, as well as a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.
The first game on an opponent’s home court, especially at one as hostile as Diddle Arena, is always going to provide learning experiences, some of them tough to stomach but preparing teams for even more challenging road games ahead.
The University of Louisville basketball team knew going to Western Kentucky wasn’t going to be easy game, needing a win to tie the all-time series between the teams at 39-39. What they didn’t know was that Montrezl Harrell would get bounced around in a scramble, lose his cool, starting swinging punches, get ejected and not be available the second half.
Harrell had scored 14 points, grabbed two assists, and made two assists when he was sent to the locker room with 38 seconds to go. The indispensable force suddenly unavailable, shifting the playing field, visions of nightmares from previous games against Western Kentucky quickly emerging. How would the Cardinals cope without him?
His absence would push other players to the forefront, forcing them to adapt quickly, assuming new roles, testing their collective mettle and they would respond positively to the shocking change for circumstances.
Terry Rozier, who has shown flashes for the past two seasons, would lead the way. Playing largely in the shadows of Harrell and Russ Smith during his freshman season, Rozier embraced his leadership role, making the shots Louisville had to have in the second half, hitting six of his nine shots, including three three-pointers, and 11 of 11 free throw attempts in final 20 minutes. He would wind up with a total of 32 points for the game.
Anas Mahmoud, after seeing no minutes in the previous game, would play almost the entire second half, providing some surprising dexterity at times and a calmness rarely seen in a freshman. A force around the basket, he would alter numerous shots and block two of them while collecting three rebounds in the second half, scoring all six of his points when UofL needed them the most.
UofL’s assist total went from six to 11 from the UNC Wilmington game to this one, suggesting that there’s still too much one-on-one action. The most obvious example was Harrell wanting to become a long-range shooter, falling short on five of 10 field goal attempts during his abbreviated action. He gets carried away at times, looking to the next level, costing his team.
MORE TO COME
Funkhouser earned second team honors last season finishing 13-3 overall with a 1.94 earned run average and 122 strikeouts in 120 innings.
For his collegiate career, Funkhouser is 18-4 with a 2.01 ERA and 177 strikeouts in 175 innings and 24 total starts over two seasons.
First home game is February 18th against Eastern Kentucky University.
One constant over the years, with the University of Louisville going in and out of seven different conferences, has been the presence of Western Kentucky University on the basketball schedule. They’ve met 77 times since the series began in 1926.
If fans should have learned anything over that span, it would be never to take Western Kentucky lightly. Despite the fact Louisville has won 22 of the last 25 games, WKU still owns a 39-38 edge in the series,
Back during the 1955-56 season, one of Peck Hickman’s best teams ever went to Bowling Green with a sparkling 8-0 record. Ed Diddle was coaching Western at the time, waving that red towel of his, and would hand Louisville an ignominious 88-77 defeat. Hickman’s team would lose only two more games that season en route to a National Invitation Tournament championship.
A 68-65 loss to Western in 2000 may have been one of many cumulative factors that sealed Denny Crum’s fate at UofL. His team lost six of its first nine games that season en route to 12-19 record, UofL’s first losing season in more than 40 years.
Coach Rick Pitino sure isn’t overlooking Western, warning that his team would lose to WKU if they play the way they did against UNC Wilmington. The last time a UofL team took Western lightly was on a lazy Sunday in December 2008 when WKU handed Louisville a 68-54 defeat at Freedom Hall.
This year’s game at Bowling Green is the first game on an opponent’s home court, and WKU will be highly motivated. The Hilltoppers, with a 5-4 won-lost record, have won three of their last four games and may be getting their act together at the right time.
Ray Harper is in his fourth season as head coach, having guided the Hilltoppers to two consecutive winning seasons. He joined WKU after guiding Kentucky Wesleyan College to four NCAA Division II national championships and five national coach of the year awards.
Harper is a blue collar coach, one with a great deal of success, one who knows what this series means to Western Kentucky fans. Diddle Arena will be a hostile environment, and Bowling Green is a place where UofL teams have been humbled more times than any long-time UofL fan would like to admit.
With semester exams out of the way, tis the season for transfers.
First one out at the University of Louisville is Ryan Mack, the 6-foot-5, 305-pound redshirt tackle from Memphis. He started 12 football games during his sophomore season and six games this year before losing his spot to Aaron Epps, a 6-foot-7, 285-pound redshirt junior.
Shortly thereafter, UofL’s offensive line began to show significant improvement.
Football fans should be familiar with Mack’s No. 74, frequently called out by officials for all those false starts, resulting in losses of field position, momentum, and five-yard penalties for UofL. All a matter of timing.
Next one out the door is Akoy Agau, the 6-foot-7 sophomore basketball player from Omaha by way of the Sudan. While Coach Rick Piitno is fond of players from Africa, Agau never showed much promise during his freshman year. He has seen limited action in three games this season after recovering from sports hernia surgery in July.
The rumored departure of starting guard Chris Jones, fanned by University of Kentucky huckster and bootlicker Matt Jones, turned out to be either a toal fabrication or wishful thinking on Jones’ part. Anyone who defends Matt Jones deserves him.
The last vestiges of the aluminum bleachers from the old Cardinal Stadium at the Fairgrounds have finally been pulled or knocked down. And as this video from Business First indicates, it was not a job for the faint of heart.
For fans wanting chairs from the first and third-base sides, we’re told that the Kentucky State Fair Board still has that under consideration. But first, the board has to get a $3 million demolition request approved by the Kentucky General Assembly, which is no easy matter. Probably a cliffhanger in the closing hours of the legislative session.
Jeremy Smith was scheduled to visit Notre Dame last week, then head for Alabama for a couple of days over the weekend. But he made some significant changes in his itinerary and wound up at the University of Louisville.
So much for the Irish and the Crimson Tide.
Smith obviously liked what he saw and heard during his Louisville visit, and has made a verbal commitment to become an integral part of the UofL football program.
A 6-foot-2, 225-pound running back transferring from Fresno (Calif.) City College, Smith rushed for 1,735 yards and scored 17 touchdowns this past season. He capped it off with with 168 yards and a touchdown in a season-ending win in the State Center Bowl.
Smith played high school football at Hammond High Magnet School in Louisiana. He exploded for 447 yards and seven touchdowns in a game against Pearl River High as a junior in 2012.
Coach Rick Pitino is not happy. Practice sessions are going to be even more grueling for members of the University of Louisville basketball team following a sluggish 68-57 over North Carolina Wilmington.
Too much freelancing, players looking for shots instead of open teammates, not respecting the opponent until an 11-point lead is whittled down to two points with less than seven minutes to go in the game.
“Ego is edging greatness out of the locker room,” he said during a one minute, 46-second press conference.
That’s the second time Pitino has made the “ego” comment, the other occasion following the 45-33 win over Cleveland State four games ago. An undefeated record, proving nothing, creating some big heads apparently. Back to the whipping post one more time, hoping to make it stick this time around.
But what about Montrezl Harrell, with his 19 points, 17 rebounds, two blocks, two steals and an assist?
“The best of a bad lot,” snapped the coach in post-game show with Paul Rogers of WHAS. “They came back too full of themselves after the Indiana game. They will pay a price starting tomorrow.”
Players on Pitino-coached teams have often described his practices as very demanding, saying the games provide a much-welcomed break from the micro-managed chaos.
No one on this team is looking forward to the next five days, including the players, the assistant coaches, the strength coach, the trainers, the equipment managers, and the administrative staff. Everyone will pay.