There are magical days in life and Easter Sunday 2013 was one of them.
University of Louisville basketball is headed back to the Final Four again. A phenomenal group of athletes, bound together with a single-minded focus pushing them forward, onward, ever higher.
They have the same look in their collective eyes as their coach, Rick Pitino, possessed and driven, a man in love with the game and his team, a man, a coach, a father figure and motivator possessed and driven, thirsty and hungry, wanting this for himself, his players, his university, his community.
Kevin Ware’s heartbreaking injury only adding to the fire, one more huge source of motivation, as he is carted off the court on a gurney telling his teammates to get their butts to Atlanta. He was already an inspiration with his rapid improvement in recent weeks. Now he becomes another driving force, inspiring his teammates, lifting them up through his personal agony and all their tears.
Over the years UofL has been involved in hundreds of basketball games, images flashing through the mind of a couple of season finales that brought unprecedented joy to the hearts and minds of Cardinal fans. Games that led into those games, pre-season tourneys, games against No. 1 teams, at home, on the road, a dream game win in Knoxville, they go on and on. Few as sweet as this 85-63 win over Duke in Sunday’s Midwest Regional championship.
Russ Smith and Peyton Siva bringing real meaning to oft-repeated “best back court in America” that has been repeated about each of the top 10 teams this season, probably erasing all doubt that that distinction belongs to them. Russ rubbing off on Peyton, Peyton rubbing off on Russ, the two combining for 39 points in this one, no flinching, no hesitating, just getting after it, Smith winding up with 26 points, Siva with 13 points.
Gorgui Dieng playing like a lottery pick against a certain lottery pick, having too much fun to even think about the pros right now. Why would he ever want to leave UofL anyway? Gorgui with 14 points, 11 rebounds, four blocks and two steals, even making Russ Smith-like moves at times.
Chane Behanan may be getting back to his natural self or whatever it was that enabled him to score the game’s first six points, shoving the Duke big guys around and out of the paint on defense. One of this team’s biggest cheerleaders, happy on the floor, cheering on the bench, wanting his team to prevail wherever he happens to be. Pulling off his No. 21 jersey in the last five minutes in favor of Kevin Ware’s No. 5 at the end.
To describe as magic what’s happening with UofL basketball right now would be an injustice. Too many hours of incredible coaching and dedication have gone into this product, and the formula is still being constantly revised and improved, the engineer stoking the coals as this freight train gathers steam headed into Atlanta.
UofL Women bump Baylor, biggest upset in recent NCAA history
The Louisville women’s basketball team was supposed to lose to Baylor by between 35 and 40 points in their Sweet 16 gauntlet but the Lady Cards didn’t want to hear it.
Hear this: Louisville 82, Baylor 81.
Baylor had won 32 consecutive games, the unanimous No. 1 team in the country with a 34-2 record, led by 6-foot-8 Brittney Griner averaging 24 points a game, the second all-time leading scorer in women’s college basketball.
Griner would struggle to get 14 points in this one.
The UofL women would hit 16 three-pointers, setting an NCAA women’s record in the process, Antonita Slaughter connecting on seven of them and Shoni Schimmel with five. Schimmel would wind up with 22 points, Slaughter with 21 points.
Monique Reid hit two frees at the two-second mark to ice the classic.
Few University of Louisville basketball fans will ever forget the sequence of incredible victories on Easter Sunday 2013.