Over for Louisville, end for Blackshear and Harrell

Wayne Blackshear 3-29-15 copy

Wayne Blackshear leaves the floor for the last time, the cotton wad still plugging his right nostril, his jersey covered with red stains, having played on of his better games in a University of Louisville basketball uniform. He wanted this one badly.

Wrapping up a career that included participation in a national championship, two Final Fours, two Elite Eights, and four Sweet Sixteen’s. He was reaching his potential at the right time, going out with 28 points in his final game.

Even his best wasn’t good enough, with UofL managing only six field goals after the first half. The Cardinals had made  17 of 32 attempts during the first 20 minutes.  The scoring drought a recipe for disaster, opening the door for Michigan State’s 76-70 overtime win in the final game of the NCAA’s East Region.

— Montrezl Harrell looking beaten and battered, still feeling the effects of a second half in which he appeared to tire, lacking that familiar aggression, struggling with shots he had been making all season long. He had been making it look easy in the first half, raising his dunk total to more than 220 during his career.

Harrell was clearly fatigued, missing his final five shots while making only five of nine free throw attempts for the day. He collected most of 16 points in the first half. Thirty-nine minutes was a long, long time in this game. One has to wonder whether he would have welcomed more relief from Jaylen Johnson.

Harrell will not be remembered for his last game, however. He had a decision to make after last season — go pro or return to UofL. That decision made Louisville a contender in the ACC and the NCAA this season. Setting the standard for all future Louisville forwards with all those power moves around the basket.

— Terry Rozier collecting the majority of his 13 ponts on break away lay ups after steals. Michigan State was clearly prepared for him. And UofL appeared to lose confidence in the offense that got the team to this point, forcing Rozier to sling a few shots at the basket, which rarely works well.

— Mangok Mathiang missing a tip that could have won it for UofL with 3.2 seconds left. Then bouncing a free throw in to get to overtime, unable to hit the second try that could have sent UofL to another Final Four. If ever anyone should be motivated going into during the summer it should be Mangok.

— Quentin Snyder making a rare mistake, giving up the ball, with time running out in the overtime. Give him credit, however, for accepting the challenge after Chris Jones’ departure, accepting the challenge, playing a key role in Louisville’s surprising run during the tournament. The experience will be invaluable as he continues to develop over his career.

The season ends just short of an 11th appearance in the Final Four. An impressive start during the first season in the Atlantic Coast Conference, reaffirming the tradition of excellence that is University of Louisville basketball.

Author: Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, as well as a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.

2 thoughts on “Over for Louisville, end for Blackshear and Harrell”

  1. Unfortunate final half-game, but I’m so very proud of what Rick and these guys cobbled together to make a fantastic run to the Elite Eight by Exceeding Expectations!!

  2. The second half kept me so nervous I was close to throwing up myself.

    Amazing we kept it so close. I was ready to see Harrell take a break when he missed his second second-half jumper, both badly. I saw it as a sign that we came out of halftime with the wrong intent, too impatient. What could have been…

    But, they had already gone further than I believed possible, and we had a very real chance to win it in regulation, so nothing but admiration for this team and a hearty thank you to each of them.

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