Over the last decade, the Louisville/Marquette rivalry has grown more than the Cardinals feuds with any other school this side of Kentucky. Memphis fizzled when U of L bolted for the Big East, Louisville and Cincinnati never seem to be really good at the same time, and any the series' with the other Big East schools are still in the developmental stage.
Even if I can't stand their coaches, I've always respected most of Marquette's players (sans Travis Diener) and the way they play the game, and I think that's the main reason I love this rivalry so much.
When you think about the number of amazing games the Cards and Golden Eagles have played over the last 10 or 11 years it really is ridiculous, and here are my eight most memorable:
8. 1/26/2005: Louisville 99, Marquette 52
Louisville snapped a three-game losing streak to Marquette by absolutely embarrassing the Golden Eagles and handing them their worst loss in school history.
Most people point to this game as the catalyst to Larry O'Bannon's immaculate two-month run that saw him earn MVP honors in the West Regional as Louisville earned a trip to the Final Four. The senior hit six three-pointer and scored a career high (for the time being) 30 points as the home crowd chanted "Lar-ee! Lar-ee!" for the first time in his four years.
"You can't beat that -- 20,000 people yelling for you. You can't even dream of that," O'Bannon said after the game. "I didn't want to crack a smile, but I was sunshine on the inside."
Francisco Garcia added 14 points, while Marquette's Todd Townsend scored 17 to lead the way for a Golden Eagle team playing without star point guard Travis Diener.
"He means a lot to our club and we learned how much tonight," said Marquette coach Tom Crean.
7. 2/28/03: Marquette 78, Louisville 73
A month after a dramatic win in Milwaukee (see later), the Cardinals lost a 19-point lead at home, a shot at the Conference USA title, and the heart and soul of their team all in one night.
Louisville led 46-35 at the break, but Cardinal (and Maverick) killer Dwayne Wade hit 8-of-11 shots and scored 19 points in the second half to lead the Golden Eagles all the way back and secure Conference USA Player of the Year honors. The game had been billed as a showdown between Wade and Reece Gaines, but Gaines was flustered all night, finishing with just 12 points on 4-11 shooting, and forced an awkward jumper in the last minute that missed badly and allowed Travis Diener to sink two game clinching free-throws (and scream after making both) on the other end.
But the biggest loss of the evening for the Cardinals didn't stem from the final score. After collecting one of his seven offensive rebounds on the night, junior center Ellis Myles went up for a follow, but landed awkwardly and immediately went down to the ground clutching his knee and screaming in agony.
Tom Crean began yelling that Myles was faking, when in fact the big man had torn his ACL and would be forced to miss the rest of the season as well as the entire 2003-2004 season. The two made up before the aforementioned 47-point blowout game in 2005.
Of course Myles and Wade weren't the only reasons the Cardinals went down, Louisville was a disgraceful 15-30 from the charity stripe.
"We lost the game plain and simple, it doesn't take a lot of strategy or a lot of film watching, we lost the game at the foul line," said Pitino. "We would have been in control of our destiny if we make our free throws, and we didn't. Sometimes it's a very simple explanation."
Wade would go on to lead Marquette to the Final Four, while fourth seeded Louisville would be upset by Butler in the Round of 32.
6. 3/2/2006: Louisville 67, Marquette 60 (OT)
Desperately needing a win to ensure a spot in the upcoming Big East Tournament, the underachieving Louisville Cardinals overcame a questionable no-call, and an overtime forcing buzzer beater to outlast MU 67-60 in the second-to-last regular season contest for both teams.
The Cardinals had numerous chances to end the game in regulation, but went 0-6 from the free-throw line in the final minutes, and allowed Marquette to close regulation on an 11-2 run.
Up 58-55 with five seconds left, all freshman Chad Millard had to do was sink one shot from the charity stripe, but he couldn't get the job done. Following Millard's second miss, it appeared that Brandon Jenkins had his jersey blatantly pulled from the back by Steve Novak, but the referee standing right in front of the play didn't blow his whistle and the Golden Eagles had one last shot.
Freshman Dominic James took the ball and streaked down the right side of the court before unleashing a running 25-footer that found the net and sent the game into overtime.
Taquan Dean, playing on Senior Night, took over in the extra period hitting a huge three and knocking down a pair of free-throws that put the game out of reach. Terrence Williams then capped off the night with an electrifing windmill dunk.
5. 3/6/2004: Marquette 81, Louisville 80
Down 80-78 with under three seconds left, Louisville's Alhaji Mohammed (who apparently loved doing this) forgot who he was guarding as the Cards prepared to defend a Marquette out-of-bounds play from underneath the goal. The recipient of this good fortune for the Golden Eagles was freshman Dameon Mason who was standing all by himself in the left corner. Trigger man Scott Merritt found Mason who drilled the baseline jumper and was fouled by Mohammed, who was trying despereately to make Louisville fans kill themselves.
After a timeout, Mason calmly sank the free-throw and Louisville threw the ball away to ensure that the slumping No. 24 Cardinals were going to go down again.
It seemed as though Louisville had caught a massive break moments earlier when Travis Diener was whistled for his fith foul, when replay proved that it was actually Carlton Christian who was the guilty party. The Golden Eagles' Brandon Bell then came down and took a wild three-pointer that bounced hard off the back-board, but went off the hands of Francisco Garcia to give MU its final shot.
The win was the 100th for Tom Crean at Marquette.
4. 2/17/2005: Louisville 64, Marquette 61
If Marquette fans thought the 47-point beat down earlier in the season was brutal, they had no idea what was in store for them a month later.
Fighting to keep their fading NCAA tournament hopes alive, the Golden Eagles hit just one field goal in the final ten minutes and blew an 11-point second-half lead to the twelth ranked Cardinals.
The crowning blow came at the hands of hated junior Francisco Garcia, who drilled a deep three-pointer from the left win with 2.6 seconds remaining to give U of L its final margin of victory. Travis Diener's running three at the buzzer fell short and MU's tourney hopes were dealt a crushing blow.
Garcia's shot capped a critical 14-0 stretch run by Louisville, which wrested momentum away from MU with four free throws at the 1:37 mark that tied the score at 61-61.
After Larry O'Bannon hit his first attempt, freshman Ryan Amoroso was whistled for a personal foul after knocking Louisville's Otis George to the floor on the right box. O'Bannon went on to make his second free throw and then the 6-foot-8 George - who was 4 for 5 from the line to that point - stepped up and sank both to set the stage for a dramatic finish.
MU had two chances to either tie or take the lead over the next 1:30 and failed to connect on either. Diener missed a layup and Joe Chapman missed a rushed three-pointer with the shot clock winding down after a turnover by Garcia.
Chapman's miss led to Garcia's three-pointer, which came from a couple of steps behind the arc off a pick.
"We were on him," Crean said. "I'll put it mildly; it was impossible to get over the screen being set at that point. We were totally prepared for them to come down and shoot the ball, no question about it. We've been in that situation before with Louisville. We know they go for the basketball, with the Reece Gaines situation (see later) from a couple years ago."
3. 2/28/1996: Marquette 80, Louisville 79 (2 OT)
After a pair of made free-throws gave the Cardinals a two-point lead, red hot Aaron Huthcins took the ball up the court, faked a drive, stepped back and drilled a deep trey with three seconds left to give Marquette a huge win that would be followed with wins over conference leader Cincinnati and a win at Memphis that snapped the Tigers' 45-game home winning streak. ESPN delcared the game as the best of the '95-'96 season.
I'll never forget my brother Paul saying right after the second free-throw went in, "Hutchins, three, game over." It was eeri and it made the loss that much worse.
Marquette would go on to earn a four seed and lose to fourth seeded Arkansas in the second round, while sixth seeded Louisville advanced to the Sweet 16 before being bounced by Tim Duncan (who should have fouled out with five minutes left) and Wake Forest.
2. 1/3/1998: Marquette 71, Louisville 70
It wasn't in the tournament, there wasn't a conference championship at stake, but this was my most heartbreaking moment as a sports fan.
After a missed Louisville free-throw that kept the Cardinals' lead at 70-68, MU's Jarrod Lovette grabbed the rebound and gave the ball to Marcus West who pushed the ball up quickly to the other end of the floor. With time winding down, West threw the ball to Lovette at the top of the key who found freshman Brian Wardle on the left wing who drilled the game-winning three at the buzzer.
Sunglasses wearing Marquette head coach Mike Deane then proceeded to dance around the court and flip the bird to the home Louisville crowd. Outraged Louisville fans hurled drinks at Deane who exited the floor with his middle fingers still extended.
Days later it was actually Denny Crum, who had complained after the game about a horrible late goal-tending call on Nate Johnson, who was reprimanded by the league and not Deane.
I have never, to this day, wanted to punch a person more than I wanted to punch Mike Deane in those 30 seconds or so following Wardle and his disgusting harcut's heroics. It was awful, and I had trouble typing this.
1. 2/15/2003: Louisville 73, Marquette 70
Coming off of a 59-58 Wednesday loss to St. Louis that was their first since a mid-December loss to Kentucky, Reece Gained and No. 2 Louisville broke the hearts of a record crowd at the Bradley Center that saw No. 11 Marquette's home-winning streak snapped at 28.
With the Cardinals leading 70-67, Marquette point guard Travis Diener came off a screen and drilled a 3-pointer to tie the game with 15.3 seconds to go.
Before Marquette fans even had a chance to stop high-fiving, Gaines had brought the ball down the floor and pulled up from well beyond the three-point line to deliver the game-winner with six seconds remaining. Diener missed a desperation three at the buzzer.
"I knew that was the best shot I was going to get because I couldn't move to the basket," Gaines said. "They were going to trap me, and (force me) to pass it to somebody else."
Gaines finished with 20 points, including 4-of-6 from 3-point range, and Taquan Dean added 18 points for the Cardinals.
This is still the single greatest Louisville-related celebration I've ever been a part of. One second I'm sitting with five or six of my favorite depressed for the moment Card fans in my buddies' basement, the next I'm in the middle of a pile-on on the other side of the room and when I look over my buddy is running around the room with his dog in the air. It was awesome.