Some games against certain opponents are more important than others, validating a program’s tradition, creating bigger possibilities, the outcome commanding national attention. The game against North Carolina was one of those.
Nothing going the University of Louisville’s way in the first half, resembling a couple of games against big names at the KFC Yum! Center in the recent past. The script needing a rewrite with North Carolina up 36-25 as teams head for the locker rooms.
Rick Pitino sheds his white jacket during the intermission, returning with a far-away look, pondering the immediate future — either an ugly loss or an unlikely miracle finish.
No clues during the first couple minutes, UofL missing its first three shots, Carolina extending its lead to 18 points.
At the 17:26 mark, the Yum! lights don’t flicker or anything but that’s when destiny intervenes, another Miracle on Main if you will, with Chris Jones connecting on a 3-pointer, following it up with a steal and an assist to Terry Rozier, cutting the margin to 13 points.
Montrezl Harrell will “play like a man possessed” over the next dozen minutes, according to North Carolina Coach Roy Williams. His contributions of 12 points, seven rebounds, three steal and an assist will be highlighted by a soaring one-hand dunk that will be No. 1 on Sports Center and a jumper that will enable UofL to finally tie the score at 59-59 at the 6:14 mark.
Harrell will not hit his 3-point attempt to prevent the game from going into overtime, nor will he score the rest of the game, but he will have stamped his imprint on another legendary Pitino comeback. For the record, he will finish the game with 22 points, 15 rebounds, two assists and two steals.
Terry Rozier will score eight of his team’s 18 points in the overtime, finishing the game with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Chris Jones with 17 for the game, and five must-have free throws during the overtime. But it may have been Wayne Blackshear’s shot, a 3-pointer to put UofL up five points, signaling that the Cardinals aren’t going to be denied. His only basket in the game.
The 78-68 overtime win for Louisville over North Carolina “one for the ages” is how someone close to the observer described what happened Saturday. Some games are just more important than others.