For a half, it looked as though Louisville’s NIT run was destined to mirror that of the 2012-13 Kentucky Wildcats. The Cardinals had showed little interest in competing, extreme frustration in some questionable officiating, and they trailed Northern Kentucky, 30-23.
Basically, U of L looked like a team whose players had previously voted not to participate in the NIT.
A spirited second half effort eliminated the possibility of Louisville having its own Robert Morris moment. Deng Adel scored 13 points in the third quarter, Darius Perry electrified an already raucous crowd with a ridiculous dunk, and U of L dispatched of NKU, 66-58.
Darius Perry just caught a body on his birthday. pic.twitter.com/4OInZyK4Et— Mike Rutherford (@CardChronicle) March 14, 2018
Adel led the Cards with 20 points on 7 of 12 shooting. Ryan McMahon came off the bench to chip in 10. Four other U of L players scored six points or more.
The main I thing I remember about the NIT run in 2006 was that once you were able to push aside (or try to push aside) the surface level disappointment of simply being in the tournament, the games themselves were pretty fun. The major reason for that was that the home crowds were so good. People who didn’t typically get to sit in the lower level at Freedom Hall jumped at the opportunity to do so, and they got rowdy as hell. Regulars who attended those games referred to them in terms of being “the most fun I’ve had all year.”
It would appear as though history is going to repeat itself this year. The team absolutely needed that crowd to will it into caring tonight, and I think that’s exactly what happened. Outside of the Virginia game, there hasn’t been a more audible crowd inside the Yum Center all season. That’s making the most out of a less than ideal situation.
Now that the initial haze of depression that comes with missing the NCAA Tournament has started to dissipate, I’m glad that this team eventually chose to keep this season going. Tonight gave them, and us, a handful of pretty cool memories. Hopefully there are still a few more to come.