by Paul Sykes
I saw fear in Sonja’s eyes. It was real and scary. Captivating but embarrassing.
Rupp Arena was on overload Saturday afternoon. I can’t remember a louder, more frenetic indoor venue for the Louisville-Kentucky basketball game. It was almost as if, in those first four minutes of the game, someone had gone deep into my worst fears scenario and brought them to life.
Louisville was the tundra, Kentucky was the furnace. All around Sonja and I, two dots of red in a bucket of blue paint, the roar swelled, magnified. I felt like it was all personally directed at me. Mad and embarrassed, frustrated and incredulous. Where were my Cardinals?
“It’s a 40-minute game.” Wise counsel from my UK host next to me at the 10-minute mark and UK up by 12. And, give the Cards credit. They took advantage of UK turnovers. They began to find the basket. Down by seven at half seemed doable.
Give credit to the Louisville team that fought back to take a lead. They will not see another venue as emotionally charged and out of control. Nor will they face an opponent as physically talented, full of venom or as deep.
Give credit to John Wall for sparking the 8-0 in the second half to put UK up to stay. I knew it was over after that UK run. I was fiercely proud of that Louisville rally but sometimes it just doesn’t happen for you. We walked back to the car, ignoring the comments, the Cat mania and the even the sarcastic comments of the few in the lobby of the hotel.
Louisville did not roll over, never surrendering, actually managing to shut up the full house for a glorious moment or two. These Cardinals will be just fine. They’ve had their “Custer” moment, and they’ll find the rest of the road trips this year comparable to vacations in Cancun after Rupp.
The potential nightmares that may haunt me of those first 10 minutes may never materialize. But, the visions of blue hysteria all around me will never go away. Thank God it’s over. I survived it, lived to tell about it and won’t forget it.