Louisville fans help Jock Sutherland celebrate 92nd birthday

Jock Sutherland with Winnie, one of his “wiener dogs,” while enjoying cards from UofL fans. Photo courtesy of his wife, Phyllis

Some great news to share in the midst of some challenging times.

Jock Sutherland was up and at ’em Saturday morning, celebrating his 92nd birthday  at 234 Fairway Drive West in Nicholasville.  His wife Phyllis greeting him with happy birthday wishes.

She also presented him with a stack of birthday cards from University of Louisville fans, courtesy of fans who visit Card Game and the Cardinal Authority fan site. Later in the day Jock will partake of an Oreo ice cream birthday cake, his favorite dessert.

“Good morning, Mr. Springer. Just wanted to let you know Jock got 40 birthday cards for his birthday today,” said Phyllis in a text message. “He will have a grand old time reading them, seeing who they are from. He will read them over and over. Thanks for your help in getting the cards sent to him. Many blessings.”

Jock was also greeted on his special day to the yelping and pitter patter of their three dachshunds, Bobbie, Buddy and Winnie. “Winnie has been giving him lots of kisses today,” she noted. “She wants to wear her little dresses with ruffles. I put down two or three dresses and she takes the one she wants.

“They are spoiled rotten, including Jock.”

Jock, as most of you know, is the former color analyst on University of Louisville basketball games with Van Vance. They worked together on WHAS radio from 1980 to 2001.

“We’re shooting for 100 for Jock,” she said. “We still have the mailman to come today. He keeps looking at the cards this morning. He’s enjoying them.”

Thanks to everyone who helped make this Saturday a special day.

Old rivals Louisville, Dayton back on collision course

Does destiny dare to match the universities of Louisville and Dayton in another historic showdown on one of college basketball’s biggest stages in March?  The once bitter rivals last met with a championship on the line some 64 years ago.

Charlie Tyra, father of Louisville Athletic Director Vince Tyra, adorned the prestigious cover of the Street & Smith Basketball in 1957, following UofL’s NIT championship year.

A lot has happened since the 1955-56 season, with UofL becoming a nationally acclaimed program. The program won three national championships — in 1980, 1986 and 2013 and joined Atlantic Coast Conference in 2015. Meanwhile, Dayton has quietly labored in the mid-major Atlantic 10 Conference except for a 1967 loss to UCLA in the NCAA championship game.

Not to worry, Dayton is back stronger than ever.  According to this site, Dayton is among the serious contenders to win the NCAA championship. The Flyers are 28-2 overall and 17-0 in the Atlantic 10 Conference.  Their odds of winning it all are placed at +1200, behind only Baylor, Duke and Gonzaga. Louisville is below Dayton at odds of +1400.

The Flyers have won 19 straight games to occupy their highest poll position since finishing the 1955-56 campaign with a 25-4 record and a No. 3 ranking. They are currently ranked third in both the Associated Press and Coaches Polls.

They are led by Obi Toppin, a 6-foot-9, 220-pound forward, averaging 19.8 points per and 8.9 rebounds per game. They have three other starters averaging double figures as well.

Back to that 1955-56 season. Louisville, led by 6-foot-8 Charlie Tyra, and Dayton, with 7-foot-1 Bill Uhl, were both among the top 10 when they collided. They played three times, with UofL winning by two points on last second baskets during both regular season games.

They next clashed in the championship game of the National Invitation Tournament, which at time was considered by many to be the premier basketball tourney. Louisville won 93-80, its biggest win ever, joining the ranks of the nation’s elite programs in the years that followed.

Louisville owns a 39-27 edge over Dayton in a series that dates back to 1948. However, the Cardinals lost the last two games to the Flyers in the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons. And Coach Rick Pitino never pursued a resumption of the series after those losses.

The diehards, or anyone remotely familiar with the series, will strongly disagree that the rivalry is only a distant memory.   The stakes will be high for both programs and intensity levels will be off the charts if they cross paths again in March.

Magic at work, with UofL still having shot at ACC crown

^^ Keith Oddo bows out with 3-point buzzer beater – Mike DeZarn photo ^^

Coach Chris Mack huddles with David Johnson and Dwayne Sutton during the University of Louisville’s final home game at the KFC Yum! Center (Mike DeZarn photo).

Nothing more magical than a nylon-ripping three-point basket at the buzzer. Coming from a University of Louisville graduate transfer walk-on with less than nine  minutes of playing time and zero points for the season.

The delightful wizardry provided by Keith Oddo who had to be surprised he was even in the game. But it was Senior Day and this was his last game. Thrilled that Coach Chris Mack would call his number with 1:05 on the clock. No hesitation after David Robinson finds Oddo alone in the corner, no time to think, nothing but net.

David Johnson making his way through the Virginia Tech gauntlet for a basket (Mike DeZarn photo).

Just the thing the crowd of 18,104 at the KFC Yum! Center needed to close out UofL’s 2019-20 home game schedule. The win improving Louisville’s record to 24-6 overall. More magical is the fact that UofL is in first place in the conference with a 15-4 mark with one game remaining. By a half game over Florida State which has two games left.

The Cardinals may need ever bit of Houdini they can conjure up with their final game of the season coming next Sunday at Virginia. Both teams may have played their best game of the season when they met recently in Louisville, with the Cards prevailing by 80-73.  Virginia has only continued to get better and is anticipating its own special Senior Day observance.

Continue reading “Magic at work, with UofL still having shot at ACC crown”

Williams goes down, Louisville basketball goes south

One knew immediately the University of Louisville basketball team was in trouble when Malik Williams rolled his ankle two minutes and 29 seconds into the game. He realized it as well, hopping around to avoid the pain, heading directly to the locker room.

Leadership lacking when injuries again sideline Malik Williams (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Williams, a UofL captain, is the closest thing to a genuine floor leader this team has. He leads by example, finally playing up to his potential in recent games, and his teammates respect and listen to him.

Tears running down his face as he returns to the bench. Uh oh.

Immediate outlook terrible — for him or his team in a road game against Florida State.  A game helping to decide the winner of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s regular season. Would UofL win a conference title only five years after joining the ACC?

No. No way. Florida State would outscore Louisville 46 to 12 to close out the game, rolling to an 82-67 romp before 11,500 screaming partisans at Tallahassee. The Cardinals never had a chance in that that second half for numerous reasons:

    • No post presence, not with Williams stuck on the bench, and Steven Enoch, recovering from an ankle injury himself, unable to contribute offensively or to stop anyone defensively.
    • Shell shock again for Jordan Nwora. The all too familiar look on his face when things have gone sour for him. Unable to make a basket, dribble the ball, or make a decent pass when adversity strikes.
    • Florida State getting automatic fouls on UofL every time the Seminoles attack the basket. Apparently irrelevant to the officials who is initiating the contact. 
    • David Johnson in early foul trouble again. Unable to hit free throws, complete passes. Turning the ball over six times.
    • Ryan McMahon going cold after hitting three 3-pointers in the first half. Unable to find or create space for himself.
    • Lamar “Fresh” Kimble dribbling. So much dribbling. Running circles around Florida State, all to no avail. Overlooking wide open teammates at times.
  • All of these deficiencies getting worse, intensifying the longer Williams is confined to the bench. The Cardinals had lost their leader. Just a matter of time before Florida State catches up with them and delivers the crushing blows.

UofL follows Williams’ lead, blows past North Carolina

Malik Williams for two of his 17 points — Mike DeZarn photo

Samuell Williamson shows the form that will make him a breakout player for Louisville in the not-too-distant future. He had five points against North Carolina (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

So encouraging to see Malik Williams getting better, realizing his potential, with each game as the University of Louisville basketball team enters the home stretch. The uncertainty, the awkwardness, the inability to finish shots, all behind him on Saturday.

The 6-foot-10 junior, who has been described by teammate David Johnson as the team’s alpha dog, urging greater effort from fellow players in recent days, doing everything he can to provide extra motivation. Demanding, expecting, raising expectations.

Peyton Siva, Sr. was among the 21,076 fans enjoying every minute of the latest win over North Carolina (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

No one in the crowd of 21,076 at the KFC Yum! Center could deny that he had not exceeded their expectations, and maybe his, in Louisville’s 72-55 win over North Carolina on Saturday.

It was the Cardinals’ 23rd win of the season against five losses, and the 14th win in 17 starts in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Good for a half game lead over Florida State in the ACC.

Williams, growing out of some of the uncertainty and awkwardness around the basket, going up with authority, finishing with regularity in the latest outing. More than 31 minutes of action, with little relief from Steven Enoch with the sore ankle, relishing every minute of playing time .

“Malik means a lot to our team,” said UofL Coach Chris Mack. “Not just the statistics, which continue to get better offensively and defensively. His presence on the defensive end. He’s put in a lot of work. His teammates respect the heck out of him and he’s one of the best bigs in our league.”

Consistency and leadership abounding. Williams would, in fact, make seven of 10 shots around the basket and one of two 3-point shots for 17 points.  He would also pull down nine rebounds, including four on the offensive board, block one shot and make two assists. 

He would also get plenty of help on the boards, with teammates Jordan Nwora and Dwayne Sutton claiming 11 and nine rebounds, respectively. Nwora, with his fifth double-double this season, leading all scorers with 18 points. He was also praising Williams after the game.

“He’s been a great captain,” said Nwora. “He brings a lot of leadership and energy. Leading us every day. And me.”

Williams’ desire to see his fellow players get better, combined with his personal improvement, makes him an even more effective leader.

A future Cardinal getting immersed in the UofL basketball tradition (MIke DeZarn photo).