Welcome to the first installment of Cardinal Catalog, a retrospective on Louisville games past from this portion of the calendar. Your guide was born in the mid-80s and thus will not be examining games prior to, say, the 1992-93 season. That was when the program really started gaining traction nationally, right? To the vault we go:
Louisville 85, Texas 78 (OT)
19 January 1997
The clip above—which is from 1997 but might as well be Technicolor footage of World War II—features the closing seconds of regulation of a mid-January, out-of-conference game against the Texas Longhorns. I could watch it on loop for hours—the DeJuan Wheat pick-and-pop with Alex Sanders, the swing pass to Eric Johnson, the three that somehow doesn’t fall, the rebound by Alvin Sims, the frantic race toward the arc, the pass back to Johnson, and finally the second try that evens the game at the gun. The shot definitely would not have counted under current replay rules, but in the 90s close enough meant overtime. Note the aggressive headbutt-ass-slap combo by Sanders in the celebration. The entire sequence went over quite well among our group of middle schoolers who’d played pick-up hoops for a few hours on the Sunday of MLK weekend. Nate Johnson led the way with 21 points and 10 rebounds and Louisville improved to 15-1 on the season. The Cardinals would meet Texas again in the Sweet Sixteen before losing to North Carolina in the regional final.
Cincinnati 81, Louisville 55
21 January 1999
Death by Kenyon Martin. Didn’t need to look at the box score.
Cincinnati 72, Louisville 52
13 January 2001
Bob Huggins wore a pullover that didn’t fit and acted like college basketball Sean Penn for two hours. Those guesses are fair, aren’t they? We’re done here.
Louisville 85, South Florida 40
10 January 2004
Okay, this is more like it: beating South Florida by more points than they scored. There are very real quotes from Rick Pitino expressing frustration at how the Bulls could not stop U of L’s benchwarmers from scoring. You are in my heart forever, Sun Dome.
Louisville 69, Cincinnati 66
15 January 2005
Remarkably, the 2004-05 team that made the Final Four started off 0-1 in Conference USA. They dropped the conference opener that season at Houston and entered this mid-January game in Cincinnati without a win against a ranked opponent. Remember Jihad Muhammad? That guy and Brendan Plavich were the crown princes of mid-00s CUSA gunners. After finding themselves down 17 points early, Louisville stormed back in the second half behind Taquan Dean’s 25 points and scored an enormous road victory against the 18th-ranked Bearcats. This was the season where Taquan made an astounding 122 three-point field goals, a mark that remains a school record. The Cards would lose just once more before April 2. I listened to this game on the way back to college and got a copy of the game on DVD the following week. Donovan Mitchell was 8 when this happened. You are old.
Marquette 74, Louisville 65
15 January 2007
Before he was college basketball’s resident weirdo, Tom Crean took a break from filming season 3 of The Office to record his last victory over Louisville. Crean, who continued Mike Deane’s Marquette-coach-acting-turdish-in-Freedom-Hall tradition when he previously accused Ellis Myles of faking a major knee injury (2003), brought his guard-heavy Golden Eagles squad back in 2007 and emerged with a win. Fifteen months later he went to the middle of Indiana and was never heard from again.
Seton Hall 92, Louisville 82
19 January 2008
The 2007-08 Cardinals lost four games in Big East play; three of those contests were decided by a total of six points (home to Cincinnati, at Connecticut, at Georgetown). The fourth loss? The Jeremy Hazell game. Hazell hit eight three-pointers and scored 29 points as the Pirates stunned a veteran Louisville team. A few fun facts about this game: first, this happened during head coach Bobby Gonzalez’s tenure at Seton Hall. Bobby Gonzalez looked like he owed the wrong dudes money and had fixed at least one horse race in his life. He antagonized pretty much everyone he came into contact with and allegedly tried to steal a leather satchel out of a high-end department store the summer after he got fired. Second, I listened to this game on internet radio (pre-ESPN3 days) and got progressively angrier that Saturday night as Hazell kept hitting threes. Let me tell you from experience: yelling at a streaming radio feed of Paul Rogers’ voice is a dark place. Third, both of my brothers went to this game in Newark. The plan was for them to attend with several of my high school friends who lived in the New York area at the time. Mixing friends and younger siblings can be an adventure, and this was no exception. One brother accompanied the group, who ran an hour behind due to unforeseen errands and a Chipotle run. The other waited at the train station in Newark for an hour longer than he anticipated. "I forgot how your friends are kind of dumb," one would later say (not you, mxp502). He wasn’t wrong. They eventually found their seats and were in misery for two hours, enduring taunts from scores of Seton Hall basketball fans yearning for the days of P.J. Carlesimo.
Louisville 69, Pittsburgh 63
17 January 2009
Here we had arguably the brightest regular season moment in Louisville’s all-too-brief time as a member of the Big East. On his 21st birthday, Earl Clark gave himself a gift in the form of a game-sealing jumper against top-ranked Pitt. With the Cards leading 62-58 with just over a minute to play, E5 jab-stepped, dribbled to his right, and buried a long two-pointer late in the shot clock. Clark’s bucket got an exclamation out of Sean McDonough and an "ONIONS!" out of Bill Raftery. What’s more Big East than that? This was the year that U of L went 16-2 in the Big East and somehow managed to avoid road games at both Pitt and UConn. All three teams would earn top seeds in the NCAA Tournament two months later. Tragically, the tournament got canceled.
Villanova 92, Louisville 84
11 January 2010
If I told you that Louisville played a game in the past decade that featured both teams combining for a total of 67 fouls and 94 free throws, could you guess one of the three officials? Think about it for a second. I’ll give you a paragraph break.
You guessed Karl Hess, didn’t you? You’d be right. I’d send you one of those Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame plaques that lined the Freedom Hall concourses as a prize but I don’t have your address or any of the plaques. This is the only game on this list I saw in person and it was an atrocity. Do not let the high, non-overtime final score fool you: Louisville and Villanova spent nearly three hours on that Monday evening trying to kill basketball and Hess was more than happy to take the lead on administering the injection. The Cards did what they did for much of that season: alternate brilliant offensive stretches with periods of flailing around like one of those car dealership balloon creatures (according to KenPom, they ranked 98th in adjusted defensive efficiency on the year). Villanova was ranked fourth nationally and had Scottie Reynolds, so there was no shame in losing to them, but I remember lots of booing due in part to the fact that the game was always just close enough that fans felt compelled to stay. In a statistical disparity that summed up their season, the Cardinals made 39 of 45 free throws attempted and 7 of 33 three-pointers attempted. Sounds about right.
Louisville 71, Marquette 70
15 January 2011
Guessing y’all remember this one, a Saturday nooner that instantly became known as the Miracle on Main. The game topped a column Mike penned last January on the greatest games in the Yum! Center’s brief history. Louisville erased an 18-point deficit in the final 5:36 of this game. It started with an SVT lay-in—because why wouldn’t it—and culminated with a Kyle Kuric basket with four seconds remaining. Jimmy Butler missed at the buzzer and the Golden Eagles left the court as stunned as the home crowd. Buzz Williams did something to anger the coaches here, because he got three consecutive blow-bys in the handshake line. Masiello’s seems particularly hostile on replay. The rematch that season, which took place in the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament, was the rare showdown between these teams that was neither close nor weird; Louisville won by 25.
Providence 190, Louisville 59
10 January 2012
I missed this one for, as Hot Hot would say, a thing. I remember receiving increasingly panicked and profane texts from friends and family members that left me concerned there was a Malice at the Palace-type situation. Who was it, I thought to myself. Was it Chane? It was probably Chane. What actually happened that night in the Dunkin Donuts Center turned out to be far worse. We don’t have to discuss this one further.
Syracuse 70, Louisville 68
19 January 2013
I shouldn’t be mad about this one, you know? We got the Orange back in the Carrier Dome—and in Madison Square Garden, and then we waited again in Atlanta for the rare chance at triple revenge within the same season (for better or worse, that never happened). All that said, this Saturday afternoon loss—the only one at home for the champs—came with the Cards ranked #1 in the regular season for the first time in school history. They entered on an 11-game winning streak but fell apart late. Michael Carter-Williams made some big plays, including a go-ahead dunk off a disastrous turnover in the final minute. Afterward, Peyton Siva said he’d "rather have the no. 1 ranking at the end of the year." That turned out okay.
Any memories of these dozen games you’d like to share? Fire away in the comments.