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.

Raucous NIT crowd pushes UofL past Northern Kentucky

Darius Perry delivers the exclamation point and posterizing dunk in the fourth quarter in top photo. Below, Deng Adel collects two of his game-leading  20 points (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

Vince Tyra, the probable athletic director at the University of Louisville, had to have mixed feelings. Smallest crowd of the 2017-18 season but probably the best one.

The crowd of 9,974 was full of fanatical Louisville fans having a great night out (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

The UofL partisans among the 9,974 fans so happy to be there for the National Invitation Tournament. Thriving on watching their Louisville basketball team. As one observer remarked, the home court would be a hell hole for opponents if every game had this atmosphere.

UofL was listless, awkward and struggling early, playing without any semblance of rhythm or purpose. Looking for a while like the Cardinals might be headed for still another low point, plunging into nothingness if they couldn’t get it going. So many airballs and blown plays, UofL falling behind 30-23 at the half.

But this raucous congregation of fans, consisting of many never seen in the lower levels of the KFC Yum! Center, were not going to let them quit. They were there to see their Cardinals, enjoying the big buck seats, and they would be a factor. Time after time they willed the Cardinals back in the game, helping shake off the sluggishness, willing them back into the game, pushing them over the top.

The crescendo coming with 40 seconds to go in the third quarter, on a towering, posterizing dunk by Darius Perry. The No. 1 dunk of the year coming in the NIT. The birthday boy from Powder Springs, Georgia, coming through with the icing on the cake. From that moment on it was just a matter of time, with Louisville a good Northern Kentucky team 66-58 to advance to the next round.

Vince Tyra had to be amazed at the exuberance of the all the non season-ticket holders filling those seats in the lower bowl. In the best of all UofL worlds, the best seats would be always be occupied by the most vocal fans. 

Not that anyone is complaining about the regulars who have been there through some trying times. But crowds like the one Tuesday night are a endearing reminder of the yesteryears when economics were not such a dominating factor in college basketball.

Coach David Padgett giving this crowd much of the credit, “They gave the energy we needed to win this game,” he said.

Fans May Still Be Able To Get Tickets
To That Last Freedom Hall Game Yet

by Tom Stosberg

Let’s clear one thing up. The National Invitation Tournament (NIT) isn’t such a bad thing. It’s televised. And usually it’s on Tuesdays when they don’t have the real good stuff like tools and computers on QVC or Home Shopping Network.

Plus they play in some big arenas. Okay, so lots of fans do like to come disguised as empty seats. But, c’mon! They don’t make a lot of noise so you can really hear the kinds of things the coaches tell the players that got them to the NIT.

Here’s another good thing. There are not nearly as many people watching the NIT on TV, so if you’re in a sports joint, you can have the place pretty much to yourself. They might even give you some extra chicken wings just to keep you there. Zowie.

If the University of Louisville basketball team can just hang on and make it to the NIT, there’s a possibility that Edgar Sosa and Mike Marra might be able to play in front of some family members … IF they can win more than two games. Or maybe Wisconsin will make the NIT and Jerry Smith could play in front of some of his folks. Zowie again.

Our “big” men will be able to show off their three-inch verticals and just to make it really exciting one of the Cards may even set the fan base on fire by actually dunking a basketball during an actual game.

Oh, I’m absolutely goosey over the whole thing…the possibilities of an extra game in Freedom Hall. I can already smell the caramel corn. Maybe this time there won’t be an ice rink under the floor causing condensation on the court. But if there is, what the heck. It’s NIT Tournament time!

Does basketball get much better than this? Well, actually, it does.