In my mind there are three games this decade which clearly stood out above all the others. After those three, however, the comparable contenders are bountiful.
There is a legit case for the higher seed in each of the matchups not involving the top three, and perhaps the biggest example of this is the 6/11 matchup we tackle today.
6. REECE GAINES BREAKS HEARTS AT MARQUETTE (2/15/03)
Coming off of a 59-58 Wednesday loss to St. Louis that was their first since an early season defeat at the hands of Purdue, Reece Gaines 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 after a crushing 73-70 loss.
With the Cardinals leading 70-67, Marquette point guard Travis Diener came off of a screen and stroked a three-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 a dagger 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 Cards fans in my buddy's basement, the next I'm in the middle of a pile-on on the other side of the room, and when I look over our host is running around the room holding his dog in the air.
It was awesome.
11. LOUISVILLE STOMPS PERENNIAL POWERHOUSE MIAMI AT PJCS (9/16/06)
The game wasn't competitive, but this was the moment Louisville football really captured the attention of the American public.
After the Cards had suffered a crushing three-point loss in Miami two years prior, this statement game was hyped all summer by Louisville fans and local media. The intensity was ratcheted up a notch when a war of words broke out between U of L linebacker Nate Harris (a UM transfer) and Hurricane quarterback Kyle Wright in the days leading up to the contest, and then set ablaze when players from The U elected to stomp on the Cardinal bird during pregame warm-ups.
After falling behind 7-0, Louisville ripped off 31 straight points to score one of the biggest victories in program history and establish themselves as a legitimate contender for the national championship.
"Well it was pretty obvious today we were embarrassed," Miami coach Larry Coker said after the game. "Our players are embarrassed. Our coaches are embarrassed. We thoroughly got whipped."
Everyone knows the details: Harris' fumble recovery, Brohm's injury, Cantwell's first pass, George Stripling's ridiculous speed and, of course, the Mario stiff-arm.
What an ass-kicking and what a day to be a Louisville football fan.
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