Might it have been a bit “classier” had El Ellis just dribbled out the clock at the end instead of heading uncontested to the rim for an exclamation point 360 windmill slam, after Brad Brownell had cried “uncle.”
Of course, it would have. Maybe.
But, ya know what, in this dastardly campaign of little return, let ‘em vogue.
Louisville Cardinals 83, Clemson Tigers 73.
U of L’s fourth W of the campaign was by double figures as an 11 underdog.
* * * * *
Clemson was forced to call a timeout with 7:31 left, after a six point Cardinal run gave U of L a 66-52 lead.
Then the Prilosec™ moments.
The Tigers tallied 2 in the paint (where they were +20 for the game). Cards miss. Tiger 2 more in the paint. Card miss at the shot clock. Clemson missed a pair at the line. El Ellis missed the front end of a 1+1, one of only two Louisville misses at the line where they were 26/28. Two more Clemson points in the paint. 66-58.
After a Cardinal timeout, they couldn’t score. The visitors hit another FT. Louisville turned it over on a shot clock. Which resulted in another deuce underneath, where Clemson scored 46 of their points. The lead was down to five, 66-61.
After the 3:30 media stoppage, Mike James started the triage, converting a pair of charity tosses. The Tigers netted a trey, but Jae’Lyn Withers answered with a two. Another Tiger layup was answered with James score underneath.
Then after an empty Tiger possession, Brandon Huntley-Hatfield allowed the once raucous but muted crowd to exhale, with a slam follow of a missed J.
A tick under a minute to play, U of L was up 74-66.
Time for cruise control?
Uh, not so fast, mes freres.
An immediate three by the visitors cut the advantage back to five.
Then Withers made a horrible inbounds pass which bounced through James’ legs.
But, JJ Traynor, playing the breakout game we’ve been looking for (16 points, 9 rebounds) fashioned his fourth block of the night.
The Cards hit 6/7 at the stripe down the stretch to seal the deal.
* * * * *
The game appeared winnable throughout.
26/51 from the field. 26/28 at the line. Those numbers keep a team competitive.
Clemson, despite their wicked 46 paint points and +9 points of turnovers, just seemed beatable.
The big enthusiastic crowd and spirit force of the ‘13 NCAA Tournament champions played a role.
But this particular group of Cards never makes it easy.
It’s a game of runs, they say. True here.
From the get go. Clemson converted a +1 on the opening possession. Soon U of L answered with a 10-0 run. Which was answered with the Tigers netting 8 in a row.
A microcosm of U of L’s game/ season resulted in Kenny Payne having to call a timeout with 5:01 left in the 1st. Before which U of L had made three straight FGs. Yet on consecutive possessions, turned it over, resulting in fastbreak bunnies at the other end.
* * * * *
Card led 39-36 at intermission.
Fell behind 43-44 exactly three minutes into the 2d. But immediately regained the lead and some measure with an Ellis trey, a stop, an Ellis deuce, stop, two James FTs, another stop, and Huntley-Hatfield deuce for a 52-44 advantage.
They never again relinquished the lead.
Louisville, on a night that celebrated the win over Michigan to capture the school’s 3d NCAA title, was not to be denied. They were not quite as relentless as Peyton Siva against the Wolverines, but plenty damn stalwart.
* * * * *
Despite his four turnovers and lone assist, kudos to El Ellis.
He mostly allowed the game to come to him, as we are wont to say, forcing it much less than usual.
28 points on 9/15 marksmanship.
Credit also to Jae’Lyn Withers. When cutting inside the arc, he actually stopped at correct spots for 12’ Js. He made several that were critical in the outcome. And grabbed 9 boards to join JJ for team high.
Mike James netted 13 big ones.
B H-H’s follow slam with 1:26 was a game sealer, though a couple tense moments ensued.
A game ball to JJ Traynor for his career night.
A game ball to Kenny Payne and his staff for keeping this team together and fighting.
A sweet, sweet night.
— c d kaplan