After a week when Mother Nature decided to wreak havoc on the residents in the Kentucky area, it only made sense when a group of Hurricanes dropped into downtown Louisville and the Yum Center yesterday afternoon looking to cause major damage. This particular storm came in the shape of a Miami men’s basketball team that sat firmly on the NCAA Tournament bubble entering Saturday’s slugfest. Miami, a team that decidedly beat Duke on their home floor earlier in the season, entered yesterday as a team that was hungry, looking for something to eradicate. And, for 20 minutes Rick Pitino’s squad looked like the ideal victim – ripe for the picking.
Louisville’s first half display of basketball on Saturday afternoon was one of the ugliest performances in many moons – a highlight reel for viewers who enjoy poor shot selection, selfish one on one play and bad energy. The only thing that saved Louisville yesterday from being severely battered and washed away was a mandatory storm shelter – halftime.
So fifteen minutes came and went, and out from behind the clouds and wreckage sprang a second half Louisville team that showcased energy, teamwork and positive vibes. After opening the second half on a quick 8-0 spurt, the Cards had risen from the ashes and enabled themselves to strap on enough seat belts to endure a half of basketball that looked far more like the old school Big East brand of hoops than the present day ACC…..bodies on the floor, players banging on every trip down the lane, each shot being highly contested. And in the spirit of not reviewing each single possession from yesterday, I’ll cut to the chase…..the game literally went to the buzzer when Angel Rodriguez’s last second game winning 3pt attempt blew to the right and UofL fans went from…..
…..in a matter of seconds.
Montrezl Harrell played huge for UofL (sound familiar?) particularly in the paint and most surprisingly from the free throw line where he hit 3 of 4 attempts inside a minute of regulation to help the Cards avoid losing their 4th out of their last 5 contests. Chris Jones found his way off local milk cartons and the missing person’s campaign to also play a major role in the win with his energy and timely offense down the stretch. Terry Rozier had an off night and struggled from the field but his bucket inside the final two minutes and his deflection just inside a minute were irreplaceable. All that to say: Cards 55, Canes 53.
But hold up, wait a minute……it’s worth noting that oddly enough, arguably the biggest story from yesterday’s game was not the fact that UofL managed to rip victory from the jaws of defeat, but instead how Montrezl Harrell looked like Peyton Manning (or insert your favorite QB) when accurately drilling Miami’s Tonye Jekiri square in the forehead on an overhead pass after coming down with the ball following a 1st half defensive rebound. Enter a new American conspiracy that shall be labeled “Head Gate”
I won’t cast opinions either way, good or bad, just to say that the play itself was as strange as any in-game one I have seen in a couple years. And to add to the awkward story line of whether Harrell did or did not intentionally pong Jekiri, Miami Coach Jim Larranaga reportedly informed the three game officials following the incident that Jekiri had suffered a concussion as a result of the play and would not return. Yet, he made his way back to the court early in the second half and played the rest of the way…..Miami must have one helluva team physician.
Up next for the Cards is a road tilt at current ACC bottom feeder Georgia Tech. But despite the Yellowjackets’ current league standing the Cards will absolutely have to show up in Atlanta with a sense of urgency and a desire to play team-oriented basketball for 40, not 20 minutes. The ACC doesn’t offer any nights off, a lesson Louisville must continue to grasp and carry well into March.