There have probably been regular season wins that have meant more to a Louisville basketball team than Wednesday night’s meant to the 2017-18 Cardinals, but I can’t think of any off the top of my head.
Desperately needing a win of some substance, U of L clawed back from a 13-point halftime deficit to top 23rd-ranked Florida State and snap the Seminoles 28-game home winning streak. The streak had been the third-longest in Division-I.
The victory also marked Louisville’s first win on the road over a top 25 opponent since March 5, 2014. The Cardinals had been 0-12 in such games since making the move to the ACC.
And then there’s this.
David Padgett is the second coach in Louisville history to beat a ranked opponent on the road in his first season, joining John Dromo who coached Louisville to a 57-51 win at #4 Kansas in his second game.— Kelly Dickey (@RealCardGame) January 11, 2018
My biggest concern, and I think the biggest concern of a lot of you all, was that in the face of all the different types of adversity facing this team, they might shut it down a little bit between now and the end of the season. It would have been hard to blame them.
Thankfully, it doesn’t appear as though we’re going to need to have that debate. Louisville played with energy, passion and remarkable resolve on its way to notching a win that, at halftime, was as unforeseeable as any surprise win in recent memory. It was a two-hour performance that put to bed any fears I had about how much the next two months mean to these guys.
Few rapid fire thoughts:
—No, this win doesn’t mean that Louisville is suddenly a national title contender or even a legitimate top 20 team. It is, however, a sign of hope.
The Cards have played five solid NCAA tournament teams. They’ve been embarrassed by one, been in a position to beat three, and now they’ve finally beaten one. There’s hope. Who knows what the two months ahead hold, but at this moment, it feels like they at least have the potential to be special. That’s more than any of us could have honestly said four hours ago.
—Louisville is so, so much better when there are two legitimate guards on the floor. V.J. King has my eternal admiration and respect for following through on his commitment to play here, but I think he’s gonna have to see his minutes cut in order to make room for more Ryan McMahon or even a little more Darius Perry at times. Teams just absolutely abuse us defensively when we only have one solid ballhandler/decision maker on the floor.
—Speaking of McMahon, there’s no one I’d rather have taking a shot late in a close game. I am terrified of everything in the final minutes of close games, and even I yelled “THAT’S GOOD” right when he released that last shot.
Balls as big as church bells.
—Yeah, Anas fouled on that last drive, but that’s payback for the Dwayne Sutton pull down and THAT WILD BULLSHIT YOU ALL PULLED WITH THE RIMS.
The FSU rim crew is now a Card Chronicle mortal enemy.
—Deng Adel was fantastic. I get that it’s unrealistic for him to be that good on a nightly basis, but he needs to be close for us to have a best chance against the best teams in the conference. The star turn can’t stop tonight. This needs to be just the beginning.
—After three years of waiting, we have the physical, consistent, taking no crap from anyone Ray Spalding we’ve all been clamoring for. It’s nice and I like it a lot.
—Six assists, two turnovers, a couple of really big made shots, and 36 minutes of effectively handling FSU’s pressure from Quentin Snider. That’ll do.
—Malik Williams’ propensity for knocking down awkward three-pointers at critical moments knows no bounds.
—This was the largest halftime deficit a Louisville team has overcome in a road game since 2003. Think about that for a second. Unbelievable that this group accomplished what they did tonight.
—At this moment, I don’t care about what the future holds whether we’re talking long-term or this season. I’m just so happy that the old post-major victory giddiness is back. We’d all gone far too long without it.
Soak this one up for a while, everybody. You’ve earned it.