Everything was going wrong. Shots weren’t falling, Louisville was getting pushed around inside and the rebounding margin was as lopsided as an early December paycheck game. Attitudes were poor, it looked like the same frustrating type of loss that has happened twice before at the KFC Yum! Center in the last 35 days. Once vs. Kentucky. The other vs. Duke. Carbon Copy.
Then something happened. It’s hard to say really what exactly….but after a 7-0 North Carolina run to start the 2nd half Rick Pitino called timeout, negating a hard to find Louisville basket. Typical. Everything was going wrong. Even when the Cards called timeout. It was 43-25.
What was said in the huddle? Montrezl Harrell says, “He told us that if we didn’t start playing defense we were going to get beat by 30….and we agreed with him.”
Nevertheless, what happened next was remarkable. The same team that sulked and allowed bad moments affect the next moments suddenly perked up. Positive Energy suddenly appeared on the Louisville sideline. It started with a quick in bounds turn around 3 point jumper made by Chris Jones, who immediately got a steal for a Terry Rozier layup. Those 5 quick points cut an 18 point lead to 13 and while there was still a long way to go, it set the tone and restored faith in a deflated team.
From there, the Cards chipped away at the lead, but a ridiculous Montrezl Harrell alley-oop, a throw back to the old days, ignited the crowd and let them know that this comeback was REAL.
This Louisville team hadn’t given many people reason to believe that it could overcome a half like it had in the 1st. This team, with remnants of it’s Final Four and Championship teams struggled against ranked competition in 2013-14 and was showing symptoms of that same problem so far in 2014-15…..they needed this win. They needed to find a way to grind to a victory, and they had to learn about togetherness and positive energy. If nothing else they had to prove it to themselves.
Will the last game in January set the tone for the rest of the season? Will it set the tone for a run in the ACC? The NCAA? We don’t know that just yet. But if nothing else, Saturday proved that this team is capable of growing, it’s capable of overcoming. The ACC surely has some bumps in the road ahead, but now more than ever there may be some confidence that when those bumps come, Louisville might be able to steady and go for a ride.
Buckle up. It’s February.