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.
Long day for the University of Louisville basketball team. Sitting around in a hotel all day long, waiting for a 9 p.m. tipoff. Not exactly ideal.
Four of 13 free throw attempts? Not a good look for a team needing to rid itself of some nagging imperfections near the end of February.
Missing the first six free throws, a weakness spreading to other parts of UofL’s game. The free shots bouncing off the back, the side and the front of the rim, a couple of them missing the rim entirely.
Some familiar front line players still unable to find the bottom of a basket staring them in the face. Unfamiliar territory despite all the practices and individual instruction. Familiar mistakes but not getting away with them against an upper echelon opponent. Little things, but big factors.
Maybe worse for the Cardinals was the fact that North Carolina was getting so many more trips to the foul line, making 21 of 29 of them. Not surprising but more than a little one-sided maybe?
Denny Crum is turning 80 and still creating legacies at the University of Louisville. Creating UofL milestones in 1980 and 1986 with the school’s first two NCAA championships.
He was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1994, with the late John Wooden of UCLA fame as his presenter. Denny compiled a 675–295 record over 30 years at UofL.
His latest legacy is the Denny Crum Scholarship Fund, which was established in 2001. More than $750,000 in scholarship money has been awarded to more than 350 students attending UofL — based on academics, community service and financial need.
Many of his fans and friends will be attending an 80th birthday bash for Denny on Wednesday, March 1 at the at the Ramada Plaza Louisville Hotel and Conference Center on Hurstbourne Lane, starting at 6 p.m., with a live auction. The event is also a fundraiser for the scholarship fund, intended to be a permanent offering at UofL.
Makers Mark has created a limited edition special label bottle, numbered from 1 to 80 to mark the occasion. Individual bottles are available at the auction, starting at $1,000 each. The No. 1 and No. 80 bottles are expected to be in major demand. Denny wants No. 30 for his 30 years at the helm.
Tickets are $80 each. For ticket info, contact email@example.com at York Management or call 502-894-9768.