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Seedy K’s GameCap: West Virginia

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Once down 20, Cards are Final Four Bound

To help combat March Sadness, this is the third of a series of recaps of significant games in Cardinal history, contemporaneously rewatched, said freshly minted posts to be presented as if the games were played the night before. — c d k

“Meet me in St. Louis, Louis/ Meet me at the fair”

I mean, really, how about that?

For the first time since winning their second crown in ‘86, and the first time in the Rick Pitino era, the University of Louisville Cardinals will be among the last four standing at the fair that is the Final Four in St. Louis.

It took some truly serious Cardinal duende to accomplish the task against John Beilein’s upstart, red hot West Virginia Mountaineer contingent.

Before Taquan Dean couldn’t get squared on that last second baseline jumper that would have won it in regulation, the Louisville Cardinals scored on — count ‘em — nine straight possessions. Even with that, the Cards needed an extra five to close the deal, completing a comeback as lovely as any ever.

Outscoring They Who Shall Ever Be Known As The Pittsnoggles 16-8 in OT for the 93-85 Elite Eight conquest doesn’t come close to revealing just what the Cards needed to do to secure this victory.

Because, with 2:45 left in the 1st, Louisville was down, uh, 20, at 18-38.

After shaving a bit off that disadvantage heading into the locker room at the half, at 27-40, the Cards clawed back within three at 51-54 with 10:29 left. But . . . West Virginia was able to keep U of L at bay, and was up ten again on yet another Kevin Pitssnoggle trey at 5:45, 71-61.

At that forlorn moment, my mind wandered as it is prone to do when bad outcomes seem inevitable. The memory of that previous disappointing L on the same court to Phi Slamma Jamma in ‘83. And an iconic line from the end of one of my favorite flicks, “Chinatown,” which I paraphrased to myself.

Forget it Chuck, It’s Albuquerque.

* * * * *

Ah, but this feisty bunch of Cards never stopped coming. Nine possessions. Nine scores.

With 6:07 to play, after forcing a Mountaineer turnover, Taquan Dean netted a trey. 61-68.

After a three by You Know Who, pushing the lead back to 10, Larry O’Bannon drove for a deuce. 63-71.

The Cards then stole the rock, and Francisco Garcia cut the margin to 65-71.

Another stop, another Cisco score. 67-71.

Then, after hope was returning, I again was in touch with my inner Jake Gittes, “Forget it Chuck, it’s Albuquerque.” The Cards leader Garcia fouled out. A WVU FT later, the deficit was 67-72.

U of L stayed resolute. O’Bannon drained a couple at the charity stripe. But the Mountaineers matched ‘em. 69-74.

Next possession, the Cardinals were all effort. O’Bannon’s shot missed. Offensive rebound. Then O’B scored a third chance tally after Dean was errant from beyond the arc. 71-74.

After another stop, a seventh straight score, this time at the 2:00 mark, when “My Man Otis” George — thank you, Gus Johnson — hit a jumper from the circle. 73-74. But Pittshisface answered, swishing yet another long ball. 73-77.

Then the Cards D, which had been relentless the entire 2d, despite the Mountaineers’ marksmanship, held. O’Bannon, playing THE game of his career, found Juan Palacios , who converted. 75-77.

Another stellar stop, and, for the ninth possession in a row, the Louisville Cardinals scored. O’Bannon again on a drive. 77-77.

What a long strained trip it was.

Then, on a play as important as any in this intense struggle, Brandon Jenkins blocked a West Virginia attempt, and he wasn’t even given credit for it in the official box score. Palacios retrieved the ball, got it to Taquan, for that last attempt which coulda avoided OT. But didn’t.

* * * * *

To show just how resilient U of L was, they not only registered points on those nine possessions in a row, but thrice in a row, before a miss then that scoring skein.

At 51-60, Ellis Myles nailed a follow 2. After Larry O’Bannon saved the possession, diving on the floor for a loose ball, he rippled a triple. Garcia drove for a deuce on the next possession.

Francisco’s offensive fourth foul on the next possession was the only time the Cards didn’t tally with the ball until it was 77 all.

* * * * *

There’s an interesting symmetry to the exquisite performance of Male High grad Larry O’Bannon.

When the Cards made it to the Dance for the first time in three years after Pitino Year II, O’B didn’t make the travel squad. Universally regarded as a bright, intelligent, decent kid, O’Bannon had somehow pissed his coach off, and was back in Louisville, when the Cards fell to Butler in Birmingham.

But he was sure PRESENT on Bob King Court yesterday.

23 points. On 6/10 shooting from the field, 2/5 from the outskirts of town. 10/11 at the line. 3 boards. 4 assists. And a block. All In The Second Half And Overtime. He had zero points at the break.

Was he ready after intermission, or what?

Taquan Dean scored 23, netting 7 treys. He played hurt much of the night. Exiting late, with cramps it seems, and returning later to Compete.

Francisco Garcia scored 13, even though he watched the final 9:02 as a cheerleader on the pine.

Ellis Myles led the Cards with 7 rebounds. 9 points.

Long-armed Brandon Jenkins was a demon on D. 2 rebounds. 3 assists. 3 steals. No turnovers. And the block of the game, for which, I feel compelled to reiterate, he wasn’t even given official credit.

Otis George delivered a steady 8 points off the bench.

The Cards were a solid 11/28 (38%) from long range. But were still -18 in the category. Because West Virginia netted a dumbfounding 18/27 (67%) threes.

Louisville battered the Mountaineers on the boards, 34-19, including 15 off the offensive glass.

* * * * *

Next: Illinois in St. Louis, Louis.

In. The. Final. Four.

— c d kaplan