In an Atlantic Coast Conference tussle destined to become Cardinal lore replayed over brewskis for decades to come, as well as appear in regular rotation on ESPN Classic, the University of Louisville Cardinals upset the favored Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Wednesday night.
By double digits.
The Cards stand undefeated for the month of February.
More important(ly), it was Kenny Payne’s first league victory, one that most were expecting wouldn’t come until next season.
And the third W of his tenure as Head Coach of the Cards.
So, does your inveterate scribe, prone to such diversionary musings, attempt to make some cultural/ musical connection as he joyously types?
Say, like invoking one of the more famous tunes from the recently departed rock icon David Crosby, the title and subject matter of which is informed by the digit 3.
Of course not. That song is about Crosby trying to convince two women he fancies to live as a threesome.
So, yeah, that’s the netherworld where this mind goes in the thrall of victory. Even if said W comes over a woeful, shorthanded foe.
I’ll take it.
And just say: Finally!
Before moving to some actual discussion of what happened on the Yum! hardwood.
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Let’s start with the enigmatic presence that is Jae’Lyn Withers.
In this one, a Double Double. 19 points on 4/6 shooting from the field — he missed both his deuce attempts — and 7/9 at the stripe. His career high 13 boards also led the victors.
(Ah, referring to U of L with the word “victors” has a sweet ring to it. Hopefully we’ll get to do it more as the season moves along.)
Withers was also the benefactor of my favorite play of the evening.
At 12:09 of the 1st, JJ Traynor missed a trey. As the carom was heading out of bounds, the newest Cardinal Manny Okorafor leaped for the board, snared it and whipped it to Withers for a triple, completing a 7-0 run to push the Cards ahead 11-8.
Okorafor also energized the gym and further fostered hopes for the future with his powerful one handed slam to push the Cards ahead 45-41.
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Kamari Lands was a key contributor to the victory.
Of course, his rookie nervousness was on full display when he threw the ball to a Yellow Jacket on an inbound with 1:14 to go, when Louisville’s lead was far from secure. But it only cost U of L a penny, and he more than made up for it with his shot clock-beating threeball on the ensuing possession.
Which meant — all together now — Ball Game!!!
Lands had five boards. More important were his six charity makes in six attempts. Especially the 1+1 with 1:48 left.
He made a couple of nifty maneuvers in the 1st. Finding Mike James for a triple to push the Cards ahead 32-28. And canning his FTs on the next possession, after being fouled on an aggressive follow shot.
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Speaking of significant work from beyond the arc.
Traynor’s long shot to make the tally 57-51 was huge.
James’ three shortly thereafter at the 2:40 mark for a 60-53 advantage was huger. (Which word I used to be cute, but it turns out is actually a word meaning what it was used to mean.)
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The closely contested battle had two interludes when it might have turned.
The Flagrant 1 on Rose Wheeler right after Traynor’s trey at the four minute mark, and the Cards up 6, could have cost U of L five. But Tech made just one FT on the extended possession.
(But I loved the aggression Rose Wheeler showed on the play, even if it had cost the Cards, which it didn’t. Also smiled at the insinuation off the offensive glass on missed Card FT, with a follow deuce at 21-15. The Okorafor Effect?)
Midway through the second stanza, the score remained 45-43 Louisville for over three minutes. The teams each had gone 0/5 from the field. The visitors knotted it out of a timeout on a Ja’Von Franklin dunk. But twenty seconds later, JJ hit a short J in the paint on a feed from James.
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All attempts at lame humor aside, the victory was not a thing of beauty.
But this victory, as few as they have been, is no time for negativitude. Here anyway.
It was beauteous in the context of what has been happening.
Gorgeous in the eye of this beholder.
— c d kaplan