File The Memories, Pittsburgh Looms

By Charlie Springer

Anyone else have trouble sleeping the night of the Notre Dame game? Eyes closed but the mind still churning, dwelling on T-Will dunks, Earl Clark explosions, Samardo Samuels put-backs, Terrence Jennings blocks, Edgar Sosa’s prayer shots, and Kyle McAlarney being hounded by Jerry Smith, Preston Knowles and Andre McGee.

Visions lingering, lingering longer than those years-ago hangovers. The observer had to catch a three-hour nap the next afternoon to get back to normal. Tuck the memories away for now, move on. There is work to do, other issues, each game bigger than the last one.

Still, the observer would venture that Louisville hasn’t played a game at that level against such a good opponent since 1986. Yes, of course, we remember the comeback versus West Virginia in 2005, the Tennessee finish in 2001, and all the Memphis and Marquette thrillers.

Games like these are what turn ordinary fans into full-fledged fanatics and raise expectations through the roof. Four breath-stopping finishes in less than 10 days. The difference between Monday’s game and the other games is that UofL was playing at a much higher level against Notre Dame. No miracle comeback required.

Among many reasons to be nervous as No. 1 Pittsburgh comes calling Saturday is whether this particular group of Cards will have a mental letdown after so many close games. One can expect Rick Pitino to dig deep into his repository of motivational kick-starts for a pre-game speech that will rival all others this weekend. How much would you pay to hear that one?

Memories of last season’s game at Pittsburgh are dominated by flashes of burly monsters who constantly dominated the backboards, obscenely stuffed the baskets, and physically abused the Cards while rarely getting called for fouls. Yeah, the Cards lost for the third straight year to Pitt in the Big East Tournament. Memories of those games non-existent. Intentionally or unintentionally, who knows?

Time to create new memories: The Notre Dame game may have been child’s play compared to what’s coming Saturday.

Lady Cards Now 16-1

The Louisville women’s basketball is having a special season, too, off to an incredible 16-1 start. Two wins in a row the last two seasons over perennial power Rutgers. They would be undefeated if they had not played Nevada and some questionable officiating on Nevada’s home court but you won’t get any excuses from Jeff Walz.

If you’re a University of Louisville fanatic, you owe yourself the next home game against Cincinnati next Tuesday, at 8 p.m. at Freedom Hall. Angel McCoughtry is as good as they say she is, an exceptional basketball player.

Before that happens, however, the Lady Cards face South Florida in Tampa tonight (see Sonja’s preview) at 8, and they travel to Washington, D.C. on Saturday to face Georgetown at 4 p.m.  One week later, they will play No. 1 UConn (15-0) on the road.

Catch your breath if you follow both the men’s and women’s teams. Huge times ahead.

Arena Of The Future

Only 656 days remaining until the new University of Louisville basketball arena construction is complete, according to a brand new web site dedicated to the new home of the Cards. Crammed with photos, renderings and ticket details, the site also includes a countdown clock.

The new site is the best source for information on ticket availability, as well as the tie-in with the expansion of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.  Apparently, the best of the best seats are already sold but there are many excellent seats available. Check it out here.

Another Freedom Hall Classic

By Charlie Springer

The latest experience begins with the observer forking over a pile of cash for two prime seats, anticipating that this would be one of those kind of games. An investment that would be rewarded tenfold with a magnificent view: a defensive masterpiece that would rival any seen in dozens, maybe hundreds of games at Freedom Hall over the years.

— You’ve seen them, we’ve all seen, games where someone emerges as a star, someone who has to be reckoned with. It happened for Louisville in this game. The eruption of Terrence Jennings as a defensive behemoth. Luke Harangody unable to miss a shot for much of the game, tip-ins, hooks, jumpers, three-pointers, it didn’t matter where, anywhere and everywhere. Until Terrence Jennings emerged. Thwarted. Not once, not twice, but three times. That wasn’t in the game films, huh Luke?

— Kyle McAlarney will be seeing the nostrils and sniffing the arm pits of Jerry Smith, Preston Knowles and mclarneyAndre McGee in his nightmares until the teams meet again on Feb. 12 at South Bend. A player who could probably make a good living as a Notre Dame leprechaun look-alike has an incredible, almost robotic precision as a shooter.  When denied three-pointers, he attacks the basket with equal ability. That is until Smith, Knowles and McGee deny him any semblance of daylight.

Earl Clark. Forty-three minutes of emotion and all-out effort. He’s playing for the name on the front of the jersey now, the rest will follow. He keeps surprising fans with startling new moves previously unimaginable for No. 5.

— Terrence Williams had the look before the tipoff. A special night, a special game. He knew it would take a special effort, one of the kind of efforts you look back at after your career is done. He has impressed many times at Louisville but never more often in one game. How fitting it would have been if his final shot in regulation had counted. Replays indicate that it should have but what the heck. Do an encore in overtime.

— Samardo Samuels is quickly gaining on the learning curve, taking Harangody to the basket time and time again, knowing that half the fouls would never be called. Collecting 18 points himself, most of them requiring body-jarring effort.

Yeah, just had to have that mind-bogging, twisting prayer from Edgar Sosa bouncing off the glass straight into net abyss. Had to be good, just had to be good in this game.

The Speech.  You know, the pre-game motivational ones, the Rick Pitino specials, each of them unique, fiery, making you want to charge the bayonets. Pitino, the masterful motivator.

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Other views of the game: Frank at Hell In The Hall and Mike at Card Chronicle.

Make It Louisville 61, Villanova 60

Two Villanova free throws bouncing off the rim with four seconds to go. Three shots at point-blank range failing to fall at the horn? Scottie Reynolds with only 11 points? It has been a number of years but maybe, just maybe, the law of averages is swinging back in the direction of University of Louisville basketball.

Enough Wildcats for a while.
Enough Wildcats for a while. (Associated Press photo)

Welcome back, Lady Luck. UofL had forgotten what you looked like. Great to see you again. A little good fortune, combined with relentless defense and decent shooting, will take you a long way. Actually, the shooting, 24 of 62 attempts, not that decent but Villanova was held to 20 of 53.

— Terrence Williams, with a fortunate bounce, making what would be the winning basket, but forgetting the advice of Rick Pitino seconds before about not getting beat long on the out-of-bounds play, setting Villanova up for what would ordinarily have been the killer.

— Jared Swopshire displaying his basketball I.Q. with the hard foul on Antonio Pena with five second remaining, sending a poor free throw shooter to the line. It will be a tough week for Mr. Pena.

— Earl Clark indispensable. Needs to stay focused, however, especially in the final minute when errors are unforgivable or unforgettable.

— Samardo Samuels not getting pushed around as much today. Knows what to do when he gets open, hitting six of eight attempts, winding up with 15 points. His getting open is the challenge, and he’s getting it, just not as fast as some would hope.

— Terrance Jennings may not know the plays but he has the natural abilities. He’s not about to get pushed around. He will keep getting better.

— Edgar Sosa fine mostly, but the Hail Mary passing with the game on the line is somewhat puzzling. The encouraging thing is that he is not hanging his head for three consecutive games.

Better lucky than good? Better to be good: The only sure thing about luck is that it will change.

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Pitino Speak? — Fans never know when Rick Pitino says something whether he means it or not. Caught up in the emotion or thinking out loud? “I’ve looked forward to this year more than any other,” Pitino said after the game. “You’ll never see 12, 13 teams as tough as this. It’s special, I’ll tell you that. I’m getting the hell out of here after this year, I’m telling you that.”  Those words will be disected for weeks and months on end.