Louisville takes Virginia to the brink but flood wall collapses

Louisville was ready to take down Virginia until the last second (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

For 39 minutes and 59 seconds on Thursday evening, University of Louisville basketball was reliving the glory days, building on a glorious tradition, casting out the demons, putting the finishing touches on the nation’s No. 1 team. 

Whut? Whoa. What should have been a routine ending suddenly takes a dramatic turn.

The dark clouds would re-emerge in that final second, slamming UofL fans in their collective gut, punishing them for their flirtation with exhilaration, shaming them for being optimistic. Back again, the implausible but undeniable scourge that has pummeled  the basketball program for months.

Quentin Snider would score 13 points in 35 minutes on Senior Night (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Louisville leading by four points with five seconds to go. Just take care of business. Wouldn’t happen, however. Darius Perry would foul a three-point shooter, cutting the margin to two. Deng Adel would travel on an out-of-bounds play, and De’Andre Hunter would throw up a 3-point shot with zero-nine-tenths of a second to go. 


Virginia defeats UofL 67-66 to the absolute astonishment of 19,413 disbelieving Cardinal fans. That bloody dagger of a shot potentially a life-altering shot for members of the UofL coaching staff and their families.

One win could have decided so much for the program, a spot in the NCAA tournament for a young coach, making it next to impossible for David Padgett to be denied the permanent position. That’s all up in the air again, prolonging the continuing uncertainty.

So many downcast faces departing the KFC Yum! Center, many apparently believing this may have been the crushing blow for this team, some wondering if their team could recover. Typical reactions in the immediate aftermath of a loss, only one second away from shaking off some of the misery of the recent past. 

Maybe all is not lost, however.

One must remember that Louisville was competing against the No. 1 team in the country. David Padgett had a good game plan, his players executed, and the UofL dominated Virginia for much of the game.  UofL would have won were it not for two improbable plays and one miraculous shot. That close.

In fact, the Cardinals may well have played their best basketball of the season in the past two games, after being written off by many after a 26-point loss to Duke. Just in time for the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. 

Don’t count Louisville out just yet. The misery can’t last forever.

Bloody Monday for Louisville basketball teams

It was either going to be a great start for the week … or an ugly one. And the uglies won, going away.

Should have known going in that it was going to be one of those Mondays when nothing goes right. If Mondays aren’t already challenging enough, why not start the week off with the University of Louisville on the road against two top 10 teams?

After learning that Mangok Mathiang and Deng Adel had been suspended, my wife had suggested early in the day going out to a movie.  Not much hope for the women either, not with Myisha Hines-Allen still not ready for the game at Notre Dame.

The eternal optimist should have taken her advice.

The games were on consecutive on ESPN channels making it easy to follow both teams. Turned out to be double trouble, the UofL women never in the game against Notre Dame, the men seemingly never returning from the locker room after half time against Virginia.

The 71-55 loss to the Cavaliers, a team that appeared ready to get beaten, ended a four-game winning streak for the UofL men. The player suspensions, combined with the injuries, took their toll this night while raising questions about this team’s chemistry. So many ups and downs are not consistent with building momentum down the stretch.

The women, meanwhile, were losing to Notre Dame still again, this time 85-66, their second consecutive loss. They were behind by five at the end of the first quarter and out of it trailing by 22 at the half. Without Hines-Allen around, they lack toughness, getting pushed around too easily, surprisingly easily for a team with so much size.

Mondays are always challenging, some worse than others.

Pitino may have been too persuasive, Virginia lives up to expectations

Over the last couple of days Rick Pitino was attempting to convince anyone who would listen that it was going to be tough for the University of Louisville to score against Virginia. He may have been too persuasive.

No fun to be found in the UofL huddle against Virginia (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

When a coach has obvious doubts about his team’s ability to beat a team, the uncertainty seeps into the minds of the players. They struggle on offense, make careless passes and bad decisions, turnover after turnover.

So many bad shots, blown crips, blind tip-arounds, air balls, clank, clank, clank. So much for getting fouled, going to the free throw line, making 13 out of 22 attempts.

The script is familiar. The Cavaliers hitting from all conceivable angles, sinking circus shots, making it look ridiculously easy. The Cardinals wandering aimlessly around, playing in a fog. Four minutes after tip-off, Virginia having raced to a 12-2 lead. Here we go again.

UofL working that ball around in the backcourt, around and back again, and again. Nobody looking for a shot it seems. All that passing and not a single assist in the first half. The Cardinals had seven assists in the second half, but Anas Mahmoud had two of those.

No double figures for any UofL players, Quentin Snider and Tony Hicks with 8 points, Mahmoud with 7 points.

“This team is our kryptonite,” he said after UofL’s 61-53 loss to Virginia. “To beat them we have to be a terrific passing team or a terrific shooting team, and we are neither.” 

One has to wonder was it a case of UofL being such a bad shooting team or Virginia being so dominating on defense?  

The answer is probably somewhere in between. No one who listened to Pitino the last couple of days should have been surprised by the outcome.

Jaylen Smith: UofL football will be ready at Boston College

Jaylen Smith made the winning reception at Virginia (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).
Jaylen Smith made the winning reception at Virginia (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

“It was one of those moments, like this is the opportunity to make the biggest play of my life. I can’t mess this up.”

Jaylen Smith recalling his mind as the pass from quarterback Lamar Jackson sailed his way with 13 seconds remaining. He reached up over the outstretched arms of a defender, giving his University of Louisville football team a must-have win over Virginia.

During the UofL press conference on Monday, he gave the credit to Jackson saying, “I can’t explain in detail how good that pass was, getting the ball over the defensive back’s hands and right to me. It was amazing.”

The 6-foot-4 sophomore end from Pascagoula, Miss., said the UofL players knew they left a lot of points on the field. “We’re were beating ourselves much of the game,” he stated. “We were shooting ourselves in the foot.”

He believed the Cardinals may have been overconfident during practices leading up to the game. “The energy wasn’t there, we weren’t executing. We weren’t the same team during the week.We were happy to come out of Virginia with a win.”

Doubtful that the malaise will last long. “Now we’re going to Boston College. We know it will be a crazy environment there. There have one of the better defenses playing one of the best offensive teams. It’s a challenge we’re glad to accept.”

Promising season derailed for Louisville basketball

Sorry, no miracle finishes, no consolation prizes, nothing remotely positive about this last game. Unless one can be relieved that the season is over, allowing fans to move on to other things.

Last game for Damion Lee and Trey Lewis. A few more tears for the University of Louisville transfers, putting the final edits on their brief stint with UofL basketball program. Helping UofL compete for a share of an Atlantic Coast Conference title, still a contender 10 minutes before tipping off their final game.

Rick Pitino kept his team focused.
Rick Pitino kept his team focused.

Unfortunately, the outcome of this game in doubt for less than five minutes, petering out in agonizingly slow motion. Virginia grinding a 10-0 lead before Chinanu Onuaku mercifully hits a free throw. UofL missing its first 11 shots, managing only 16 more points during the half, trailing 29-17 at intermission.  When it was finally over, Virginia had hammered Louisville again, 68-48.

The ease with which Virginia humbled UofL in two games this season earned the Cavaliers significant respect from Cardinal fans. Maturity and confidence beyond their years, a stifling defense, among the best in the land. Shouldn’t be too difficult to pencil in Virginia going a long way in those NCAA brackets.

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