One glorious day for Louisville basketball fans

Myisha Hines-Allen kisses the Cardinal logo at midcourt after her final home game (top photo). And another wild and crazy NIT crowd showed for the Louisville men’s victory over Middle Tennesee (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).
Darius Perry and Quentin Snider celebrate during Louisville’s win over Middle Tennessee (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

A perfect day for University of Louisville basketball fans.

One of those magical days for UofL basketball, the KFC Yum! Center the center of the universe, the place to be on a Sunday in March.  Basketball all day long, thousands of fans emerging to celebrate, enjoying every last minute as the 2017-18 season nears an end.

The UofL women’s team dominating Marquette 90-72 before a crowd of 8,017 in the second round of the NCAA tournament in the afternoon. The men’s team  defeating a good Middle Tennessee State team 84-68 before 13,050 in the second round of the NIT later that night.

Ray Spalding gets some encouragement from UofL Coach David Padgett (Cindy Ride Shelton photo).

A day of winning for Cardinals’ fans, basking in the spotlight of national TV coverage, shedding the negativity, enjoying the positive, happy days are her again for UofL basketball. More of those resounding C-A-R-D-S cheers in one day than one an remember over the last three or four years.

That kind of day for the Louisville fans, wanting to show their Cardinals some love, wanting to catch up on the good times, and put some of the bad memories behind them if only for a day or so. A good day to be a Louisville fan.

Myisha Hines-Allen, a senior playing in her last game in Louisville, kissing the Cardinal logo on the floor after the game. That fabled turn-around jump shot of hers, rat-a-tat-tat, working to perfection, making 12 of 16 field goal attempts. 

“It was my last game here, and I wanted to go out with a win,” she said after the game. “I’m just so thankful to have made it this far, to have great teammates around me, to have wonderful fans come out to a game, know what they’re watching. They’re such great fans, and I consider everyone I’ve met over the last four years a part of my family.”

Jazmine Jones collects two of her 14 points against Marquette (Cindy Rice Sheton photo).

Louisville fans going to miss her eloquent post-game commentaries and  that shot she has perfected. Hines-Allen putting on a clinic, making it look so easy when it’s so hard for every shooter. Still another double-double, the 33rd of her career at UofL, with 24 points and 13 rebounds.

Asia Durr finding her outside shot again, making three of six 3-point attempts, finishing 19 points and six assists. Sam Fuehring breaking loose for 19 points as well. Jazmine Jones adding 14 points.

Asia Durr making three of her six 3-point attempts and 19 points (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

The men, propelled by another one of those joyous NIT crowds, radiating new levels of energy and determination. Also shooting with new levels of efficiency, hitting 53 percent of their field goal attempts.

Ryan McMahon invigorating the Cardinals in the first half, burying four of six 3-point attempts from behind the experimental 22-foot line. Igniting his team, making the crowd erupt, giving UofL some rare breathing room in the first half. 

Jordan Nwora enjoying 21 minutes of playing time, also zeroing from the behind the 3-point line making four of eight attempts and 17 points for the night. Ray Spalding making good on eight of 11 shots, earning team scoring honors with 18 points.

Anas Mahmoud with the slam dunk of his career, surprising even himself, shocking the crowd, making fans do double-takes, even after watching the replay on the video board. Some disbelievers still shaking their heads as they headed for home after the nightcap.

Many familiar faces at both games, downtown businesses benefitting from two UofL games in the same day. One big great reunion of Cardinal fans, celebrating Cardinal basketball all day long. Devoted fans, not easily discouraged by events of the past, giddy to be back on the winning side.

Kylee Shook ready early, UofL women cruise in NCAA opener

Sam Fuehring clearing a path to the basket for teammate Dana Evans. (Cindy Rice Shelton photos)

Asia Durr not making shots? Myisha Hines-Allen not hitting? Two conference players of the year playing tentatively, not getting off to good starts in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. 

The UofL women attracting a solid following as March Madness consumes the Ville again. (Cindy Rice Shelton photo)

Coach Jeff Walz will pull both of them quickly, letting them relax on the bench for a while. Kylee Shook and Dana Evans will see early action, along with Bionca Dunham. The University of Louisville women’s basketball team lives up to its  No. 1 seed in dismantling Boise State 74-42 at the KFC Yum! Center.

The game seemed to be tailor made for Shook. The 6-foot-4 sophomore would hit two 3-pointers within a minute, alternating between Jazmine Jones layups for a 19-8 lead before adding her own to make it 21-11.

Meanwhile, Sam Fuehring providing a intimidating presence on defense while cleaning up around the basket for another 14 points. Fuehring and Shook would pull down 11 and 10 rebounds, respectively.

All America Asia Durr attracting a crowd everywhere she goes during NCAA action (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Hines-Allen, never able to get going offensively, would wind up with only four points but still manage to get 14 rebounds. Arica Carter was passing out assists all afternoon, finding her teammates for seven baskets.

Asia Durr, unable to conceal her concern about her shooting touch from behind the 3-point line, still managing to get nine points. She was 0-4 on 3-point shots.

Durr attracts a lot of attention on and off the court. She needs to find her shot soon, return the favor to her teammates, if she and UofL are to make a serious run in the NCAA tournament.

Louisville pleased to welcome UK to FBI recruiting scandal

Well, now.  Maybe there’s a chance that the problems that have long permeated the NCAA and college basketball will be finally be addressed. The recruiting process has been exposed as ripe with corruption, exposing many of the top programs in the sport.

The cheating has obviously become so ingrained in the system that administrators, coaches, players and fans long ago turned a blind eye to the system, with concerned observers giving up hope that anything would ever be done.

The corruption has gone on for so long and involved so many members that it has become an integral part of collegiate governance.

That all changed last October when the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced numerous arrests, naming names of some players and assistant coaches in connection with illegal payments and fraud. Caught in the process was University of Louisville Coach Rick Pitino, who would, in fact, be fired two later, along with highly popular Athletic Director Tom Jurich.

UofL fans and supporters were understandably disappointed and angered that two of the most successful people in the school’s history would be singled out for retribution. Especially when it was widely suspected, if not common knowledge, that the University of Kentucky had turned questionable recruiting into a fine art. 

One can forgive Louisville fans, whose program was unfairly made the face of the FBI scandal for five months, for a collective sense of exuberance when it became apparent they had lots of company. One caller to a local sports talk said UofL fans were hanging Christmas tree lights all over the downtown, joyful that UK had finally been named in the scandal.

This after the news broke Friday that many other programs and players were involved in illegal financial schemes with professional sports agents, including UK, Duke, North Carolina, Michigan State and Villanova, among others.

Many programs already implicated in the cheating. But to date, the FBI has released the records of only one professional agent. Much more to come with an estimated 50 sports agents with links to professional basketball and college recruiting. If the FBI is truly serious about bringing about change, the investigation has only just begun. The hypocrisy of the NCAA with its ignorance of the shady world of college recruiting and its uneven approach to administering punishment to member schools is inexcusable.

The real fear for any basketball program, especially if one has systematically cheated for decades, may be that the new or reformed organization truly wants to make an example of one of the former blue bloods of college basketball. A poster child for bad behavior, if you will.

A continuing avalanche of revelations may finally force the organization to address the problems in an comprehensive and honest approach. One would not be surprised, however, if the organization is beyond repair and will need to be replaced by a new one that bringing a whole new approach to administering college athletics, including compensation for athletes.

A few schools may decide to withhold some athletes who have already been named in allegations, if only to protect their programs against the possibility of vacated wins in the future. Others, having seen what happened at UofL and Notre Dame in cooperating with the NCAA, will fight the organization at every step of the way.

One fears that no punishment will ever be meted out against some of the top programs involved in illegal recruiting. Because there are so many of them, and they do constitute the organization, the NCAA is more like to go into a self-preservation mode, creating changes and bending existing rules to protect the organization and the members involved.

The corruption has gone on for so long and involved so many members that it has become an integral part of collegiate governance. The individuals charged with bringing about change in the NCAA will be, in too many instances, the same people who perpetuated the organization’s problems and are oblivious and resistant to the need for real change.

 

Jurich decision not to fire Pitino costly for Louisville athletics

Interim President Greg Postel (at podium) and Board Chairman J. David Grissom (at left) at press conference on suspensions. (Charlie Springer photo).

The last place any University of Louisville supporter wanted to be on Wednesday was at a press conference on campus announcing the suspensions of Tom Jurich and Rick Pitino. The unbelievable, never-ending nightmare had finally come to this.

Tom Jurich says he’s willing to stay on at the University of Louisville.

There was Interim President Greg Postel at the podium confirming the worst possible news for UofL athletics, that Jurich was no longer in charge, that he was on paid suspension until the next board meeting on Oct. 18th. That Pitino was also suspended but without pay until the same date.

With those announcements, UofL athletics probably ended one era and entered another.  The new era getting off to a shaky start with the program’s clouded by an appeal for mercy to the NCAA and the beginning of an even more serious investigation involving both the NCAA and the Justice Department.

Jurich has faced dozens of serious challenges during his tenure at UofL, but none as big as ones confronting the University now.

Jurich, who had reportedly refused to fire Pitino over the past several weeks, met with Postel earlier in the morning. Whether he was given another opportunity to fire his friend may never be known but the meeting lasted only seven minutes.

Members of the Board of Trustees may have believed having the University involved in a Justice Department investigation was far too serious to ignore. Or they concluded that a second set of NCAA allegations required a clean sweep of both the athletic administration and the basketball program.

At any rate, still another solemn, dark day in University of Louisville history with no one, including we suspect the members of the board of trustees, having a clue about what happens next. Difficult to fault the leadership for acting so decisively, with the FBI reportedly already on campus interviewing members of the basketball staff, as Postel acknowledged during the press conference.

The saddest part of all of this is that most fans may never have a chance to thank Tom Jurich for all he accomplished at the University of Louisville. Over two decades, he was able to transform bits and pieces of hopes and dreams into some incredible realities in the form of physical facilities, incredible successes on the field, and making Louisville competitive in every single sport.

Dreams that many fans didn’t dare verbalize before his arrival in 1997 became commonplace occurrences during his tenure, raising through three different conferences, one new or renovated facility after the other, with successes in both men’s and women’s sports, and in programs led by some of the best coaches available.

Jurich held out some hope that he would return, issuing the following statement Wednesday afternoon:

“For the last 20 years, I have dedicated my life to the University of Louisville. Disappointment does not even come close to describing my feelings surrounding the allegation that any member of the UofL basketball staff could be involved in the criminal conduct announced yesterday. My intent has always been to run every athletic program at the University in an honest and compliant manner. It is heartbreaking to me that the alleged intentional and secret criminal acts can bring such harm to our school.

“I love this University, the Louisville community and all of our fans. I plan to continue to help UofL overcome the challenges it faces and work cooperatively with the University with the support of the UofL Board of Trustees following their meeting on October 19th.”

It is a well-worded statement, with all kinds of nuances, possibly for legal reasons to protect his financial interest. Some clinging to hope that he is sincere about wanting to stick around, imaging how many more things he could accomplish for the University.

Whether he could turn the board is a very long shot, of course, considering that he never seemed to seriously entertain any notions of firing Pitino. He has faced dozens of serious challenges during his tenure at UofL, but none as big as ones confronting the University now. The possibility that he might be willing to tackle them would say much about Tom Jurich’s character and his love for UofL.

Jake Snider’s first homer powers Louisville past Radford

Reliever Sam Bordner slammed the door on Radford after the Highlanders tied the score at 6-6 in the sixth inning. He would give no hits or runs while striking out six batters (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).
Kade McClure almost made it through the sixth inning before being lifted (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Kade McClure having problems again, providing still more drama in the University of Louisville’s opening game in the NCAA Regional at Jim Patterson Stadium.

McClure struggling to get anybody out, loading the bases in the fourth inning against Radford University.  A double, a walk and a hit batsman, followed by a grand slam by Adam Whitacre, slashing a six-run Louisville lead to four runs. Whitacre would tap McClure again two innings later for a two-run triple, tying the score at 6-6.

Jake Snider breaks out with two hits and three runs batted in.

It was the night Jake Snider would emerge from obscurity, coming through with the first home run of his college career, a two-run blast over right centerfield to put UofL ahead to stay in an 11-6 before a crowd of 3,763. Nice to have some production from the ninth spot in the batting order for a change. 

It has taken a while for Snider to get going but Dan McDonnell was not surprised. “Snider has got one of those swings,” said the UofL coach. “He’s going to be a phenomenal hitter.”

Sam Bordner, a 6-foot-6 right hander, relieving McClure with two on and two outs in the sixth inning. He would quickly shut down the Highlanders, getting six strikeouts while allowing no hits the rest of the way.

Bordner getting better at just the right time, improving his won-lost record to 2-0 and lowering his earned run average to .50.  Turning the off button on the drama, ensuring Louisville advances another day in the NCAA.