In an age where rivalry has become synonymous with in-state bragging rights, rich multi-sport history, or just pure, unadulterated hate, Louisville/Marquette has never seemed to make much sense.
The universities - one a Jesuit school in the Midwest and the other a Southern state school - are separated by 400 miles. They began playing each other in 1951, but both have multiple series with other programs that date back even further. Each program already has an established in-state rival (Kentucky and Wisconsin), and a secondary conference rival (Cincinnati and Notre Dame).
Louisville/Marquette was never a rivalry built out of necessity, it was simply unavoidable. When two high-profile programs from the same conference play memorable game after memorable game for a prolonged period of time it automatically becomes something much more than it was before, whether the parties involved like it or not.
Louisville and Marquette are two of just 37 programs to taste the sweet joy of a Division I college basketball national championship. Al McGuire took MU to the promised land in 1977, while Denny Crum made U of L the "Team of the '80s," and captured national titles in both 1980 and 1986. The two have maintained their relevance since then by advancing to a Final Four in the past decade, making the move together to perhaps the most prominent college basketball conference in the country, and by producing successful NBA talent.
And then there are the games, the undeniable backbone of the rivalry. A Cardinal or Golden Eagle fan can describe nearly every recent contest the two have played with a single name: Deane, Wardle, Myles, Hutchins, Gaines, Garcia, Smith, Knowles. It's a testament to just how competitive the two programs have been in the last 15 years or so.
With the latest installment of the rivalry series set to tip-off in just a few hours, let's take a look at the ten most memorable tilts played between these two.
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 and accused Myles of faking, when in fact the big man had torn his patellar tendon and would be forced to miss the rest of the season as well as the entire 2003-2004 season. The two made amends before 2005 edition of the rivalry.
Of course Myles and Wade weren't the only reasons the Cardinals went down; Louisville was a woeful 15-of-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.
9. 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-inducing 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-for-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 free-throw line to end the game, 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 electrifying windmill dunk.
8. 2/24/2001: Louisville 77, Marquette 74 (3 OT)
Louisville finally got back at Marquette guard Brian Wardle (later) by ruining his senior night with a 77-74 victory in triple overtime.
Despite the loss, Wardle scored 24 points and set a school record by playing all 52 minutes of the thriller.
I still harbor extreme feelings of ill-will towards you
Marques Maybin led Louisville with 22, and Eric Brown chipped in 15.
The meeting would be the last between the two in the Denny Crum era, as the Hall of Fame coach would retire after the Cardinals were bounced from the C-USA Tournament by UAB two weeks later.
7. 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 in an apparent attempt to drive future Louisville bloggers to suicide.
After a timeout, Mason calmly sank the free-throw and Louisville threw the ball away to ensure yet another loss for the slumping 24th ranked Cardinals.
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 drama only increased after the final buzzer, however, as the Golden Eagle staff found multiple copies of a Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article in the Louisville locker room which had been doctored to include a quote from Tom Crean calling the Cardinals one of C-USA's "lesser teams." Crean called the motivational ploy "low and ridiculous," while Pitino said it was a joke he had no prior knowledge of.
The win was also notable because it was Crean's 100th at Marquette.
6. 2/17/2005: Louisville 64, Marquette 61
If Marquette fans thought a 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 twelfth ranked Cardinals.
The crowning blow came at the hands of hated junior Francisco Garcia, who drilled a deep three-pointer from the left wing 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 wrestled 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, MU 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, but failed to make good 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."
5. 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. The Warriors would follow the victory up with wins over conference leader Cincinnati and a win at Memphis that snapped the Tigers' 45-game home winning streak.
ESPN declared the double overtime classic the best game 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 eerie and it made the loss that much worse.
Marquette would go on to earn a four seed and lose to fifth seeded Arkansas in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, while sixth seeded Louisville advanced to the Sweet 16 before being bounced by Tim Duncan (who should have fouled out with five minutes left...still not over it, will never be over it) and Wake Forest.
4. 2/17/2007: Louisville 61, Marquette 59
After a disappointing start, a young U of L team coming off of a signature 66-53 win on the road over Pittsburgh was now looking for revenge over a Marquette squad that had already beaten them by nine in Freedom Hall.
It didn't look like it was going to happen after freshman guard Edgar Sosa fouled Dominic James, who sank one-of-two free-throws to give the Golden Eagles a 59-58 advantage with 5.5 seconds to play.
With no timeouts remaining, Sosa took the inbounds pass and drove the ball across halfcourt before finding fellow freshman guard Jerry Smith - who had been offered a scholarship by Marquette when he was in the 8th grade - who drilled a deep game-winning three just before the buzzer. The shot was sweet vindication for Smith, who many believed was denied that state's Mr. Basketball award the year before because of his decision not to attend an in-state school.
"This is the best homecoming that he could ever imagine, hitting the game-winning shot in his hometown," Sosa said after the game. "Everyone's loving him right now."
Louisville's emerging freshmen proved to be the difference on a night where David Padgett was in foul trouble and Terrence Williams failed to score. Sosa led Louisville with 15 points, Derrick Caracter added 14, and Smith hit a trio of late three-pointers including the game-winner.
3. 1/15/2011: Louisville 71, Marquette 70
Just three months into its existence, the KFC Yum! Center gained its first signature moment when Louisville pulled off the "Miracle on Main."
Marquette dominated the game for significant stretches and led by 18 points with just 5:36 to play. But the Golden Eagles unraveled during the game's final five mintues, making just two field goals during that span and throwing away several chances to secure a key victory over the 17th-ranked Cardinals.
Preston Knowles took advantage. The senior captain hit four extremely difficult 3-pointer in rapid succession to bring U of L to within one and then, with the defense focused solely on him, found a wide-open Kyle Kuric for the game-winning lay-up.
"That's one of the top-five comebacks," said Rick Pitino. "They outplayed us for the first 34 minutes. I'm really proud of these guys. I'm shaking. It happened so fast."
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 without question one of my top five most heartbreaking moments as a sports fan.
After a missed Nate Johnson free-throw that kept Louisville's lead at 70-68, MU's Jarrod Lovette grabbed the rebound and gave the ball to guard Marcus West who quickly pushed the ball up to the other end of the floor. With time winding down, West passed to Lovette at the top of the key and he 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 give the middle finger (this is still hotly debated) to the home Louisville crowd. Outraged Louisville fans hurled drinks at Deane who continued to dance and taunt the crowd.
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 office.
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 haircut'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, 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.
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 Cardinal 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.