A night to remember for all Denny Crum fans. More than 800 of them showing up for his 80th birthday party to celebrate him and to support his University of Louisville scholarship fund.
Crum, a Naismith Hall of Fame coach, greeted celebrants from his La-Z-Boy chair donated by Rodney McCray, a member of the 1980 championship team and the owner of the local franchise, rewarding fans with photos and autographs during a silent auction.
The live auction getting off to a great start with the first Denny Crum Maker’s Mark label (No. 1 of 80) going for $5,000, followed by a Genesis Diamond gift certificate, a full Lasik procedure from Kenyon American Eye Institute, a gourmet chef dinner at home, and a week at Denny’s Idaho wilderness vacation home. Proceeds from the event could reach $50,000 but event organizers will have the official results when expenses are deducted.
Denny, who is rarely at a loss for words, seemed a bit overwhelmed by all of the attention. “It’s an amazing feeling that I have right now,” he said. “I can’t begin to tell you what it means to me for all of you being here to help us raise money for the scholarship foundation. I can remember when I thought 30 years old was old. Now I am 80, are you kidding me? To be able to share it with you is a wonderful feeling.”
A number of celebrities wished him a happy birthday from a jumbo video screen, including current UofL Coach Rick Pitino, Bill Walton, NBA broadcaster and former UCLA player, Bobby Huggins, coach at West Virginia, Brent Musberger, former CBS broadcaster, Scott Davenport, coach at Bellarmine, Bill Olsen, former assistant and athletic director, Joe B. Hall, former University of Kentucky coach, John Calipari, current UK coach, and Kenny Payne, former UofL player and current UK assistant.
“I love Louisville. Believe me I’ve had many offers to go elsewhere. But I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. Louisville means the world to me.”
The Wake Forest players couldn’t wait until the end of the game to start celebrating, some of them jumping up and down with 10 seconds to go, their fans making their way down to the court.
The 88-81 win over the eighth-ranked University of Louisville obviously a big one, an unexpected triumph for the Demon Deacons.
Senior night for the eighth-ranked team in the Atlantic Coast Conference, not headed for the NCAA Tournament after the season, nothing to lose, letting it all hang out on a nationally-televised game. You know like they play this way all the time.
The Demon Deacons refusing to live up to their reputation, not rolling over, oblivious to UofL jumping out to an early 14-point lead in the first half. Hitting the circus shots, staying close, waiting for the Cardinals to go cold, whittling the lead to one point at the half. That was all the motivation Wake Forest seemed to need with all of the adrenaline flowing in the 14,500-seat facility.
Not a good road team this particular UofL basketball team, Donovan Mitchell seeming to lose his way after scoring all of his seven points in the first five minutes of the game. Mangok Mathiang credited with only one turnover but rarely able to catch a pass or make an easy shot look impossible. Ray Spalding getting off to a good start but mysteriously pulling a muscle or something, and never the same after that.
Deng Adel and Quentin Snider keeping UofL close with 22 and 15 points, respectively.
Not the best time to go sour, not with Louisville being mentioned prominently as a possible No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Just another motivational factor for Wake Forest, nothing to lose, not much to gain except for a win over a top 10 team.
Watch them storm the court, those delirious Demon Deacon fans.
While some may question his lack of desire, coordination and shooting ability, Ray Spalding has never lacked for support from Rick Pitino. The coach shaking up the lineup, inserting Spalding as a starter on Sunday. Yeah, that Ray Spalding.
This coming off a two-point, four-rebound and two-turnover performance in a losing effort against North Carolina just last Wednesday, evoking familiar complaints from second-guessers in local sports mediums.
Never doubt that Pitino is aware of the awkward shots, the questionable ball-handling and all the miscues, not only in games, but day after day in practice. But the University of Louisville basketball coach also senses the potential waiting to be tapped, the coach allowing himself the luxury of waiting for it to emerge.
Breakthrough performances tend to come and go, so Pitino’s patience may have been only partially rewarded on Sunday in an 88-68 win over Syracuse before 22,482 fans at the KFC Yum! Center.
There he was, knocking the ball away from a Syracuse player on defense, completing a rare alley-oop dunk on a half court pass from Quinten Snider, making a rare jump shot from the top of the key and snatching a rebound — all in the first five minutes, with UofL racing to a 13-6 lead.
All was not perfect. Spalding would miss two free-throw opportunities. But he had already outperformed, making himself a presence to be dealt with from the beginning. Easily the game of his career at UofL, making of eight of nine field goal attempts, grabbing 11 rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block.
If Pitino was pleased, he wasn’t making a big deal of Spalding’s game. “What we’ve been lacking is consistency from our front line players,” he said. So the coach is not quite ready to say Spalding has turned any corners. And even if he has, that may be approaching what Pitino expects from the 6-foot-10 sophomore.
— Donovan Mitchell is hitting his stride, leading all scorers with 25 points, including six 3-pointers. He would be credited with four assists and two steals as well.
— Quentin Snider making five of nine field goal attempts for 12 points while making six assists. And get this, no turnovers in 34 minutes of action.
— Deng Adel loving those going-the-distance drives to the basket, so much that we’re likely to see many of them before the end of the season. Notches 17 points.
— Anas Mahmoud (should we say it?) may be back, making four of five shots for 8 points while grabbing nine rebounds. Makes it look easy at times despite his scrawny frame.
— Tony Hicks did play. I missed it, too, but the stat sheets indicate he was in the game for one minute.
— David Levitch back for about eight minutes, apparently working his way of Pitino’s dog house for the last two or three games.
The win improves UofL’s record to 23-6 overall and 11-5 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, good for second place with a showdown coming against Notre Dame at home next Sunday.
But first one of those dreaded late night ACC road games, this one against Wake Forest at 9 p.m. on Wednesday.
Mariya had scored 23 points in a heated 86-81 overtime win over the Cavaliers in early January. Seemed indispensable at the time.
Not to worry, some other Cardinals brought their A games on Thursday. Namely Asia Durr and Myisha Hines-Allen who led all scorers with 24 and 21 points, respectively.
Louisville would put up its 24th win against only six losses before a crowd of 7,981 at the KFC Yum! Center.
Freshman Jazzmine Jones was the beneficiary of the extra playing time, contributing seven points, two assists and a couple of steals in 29 minutes. Oops, she also committed seven turnovers, more work to be done.
Sidney Zambrotta always stirs up the crowd. She was two for four from behind the 3-point line in 11 minutes for her six points, following up a three-for-three 3-point shots on Sunday.
One more game remaining, the Cardinals traveling to Wake Forest on Sunday. They are tied for fourth with 11-4 marks in the conference with North Carolina State, which beat North Carolina 80-60.
Double-bye for the ACC Tournament is a long shot. State owns the tie-breaker, having defeated UofL a week ago.