When last we spoke after the Duke game Wednesday night, this was how we left things:
The most admirable thing about this team through the first two months of the season was how they never quit when it seemed like they had every justification to do so. Every time you thought they might just be going through the motions, they stepped up and surprised you in a positive way.
Unless there’s another positive surprise coming soon, it’s going to be a long and depressing March in the Derby City.
That positive surprise came to fruition Saturday afternoon in Blacksburg with a 75-68 Louisville victory over Virginia Tech that may have saved the Cardinals’ 2017-18 season.
There are a number of places we could start when it comes to dolling out credit for this win:
- Quentin Snider buried a career-high seven three-pointers and scored a game-high 22 points.
- Dwayne Sutton made his first career start and played with extraordinary heart and effort. He also chipped in a career-high 17 points — including two monster three-pointers in the game’s most crucial stage — to go along with 11 rebounds.
- Deng Adel didn’t let a poor shooting afternoon negatively affect his game. He was relentless on the glass, pulling down nine rebounds, and unselfish in the halfcourt, dishing out a game-high eight assists.
- Darius Perry completely changed Louisville’s defensive performance by being able to put consistent ball pressure on Virginia Tech’s point guards. He also drilled a huge trey late in the second half and had three assists against one turnover.
- Despite foul trouble, Ray Spalding was a beast once again when he was on the court. He went for 12 and seven despite playing just 24 minutes, and was responsible for Louisville seizing control of the early stages of the second half.
- David Padgett also deserves some significant love. He was as adamant as he’s ever been on the sidelines, he was more willing to yank guys after they made obvious mistakes, and he rolled with the lineups that gave Louisville its best shot at pulling this thing off.
Given everything that’s happened this week (and this year), I’m not sure that a late February road win over an unranked opponent has ever felt this good. During the key sequence in the second half where Louisville turned a five-point deficit into a seven point advantage by raining threes on Virginia Tech’s head, I was jumping and screaming like it was the freakin’ national title game. It felt incredible to be back in that place.
There’s still work left to do for these guys, but Saturday was irrefutable proof that they aren’t going to stop righting. It was irrefutable proof that there’s at least a chance for these last few weeks of the season to be filled with more days like today.
Considering where we were 24, 48, 72 and 96 hours ago, that’s a pretty great thing to be able to say.
Enjoy this one, everybody.