Everything has to come to an end. That’s the way it is in College Basketball. Louisville witnessed its final game with Russ Smith, Luke Hancock, Stephan Van Treese, and Tim Henderson Friday Night/Saturday morning in Lucas Oil Stadium. It was the same venue to sparked an emotional story line a year ago on the Cards’ run to the 2013 National Championship.
The nuts and bolts of Louisville’s final loss of the season (74-69 to Kentucky) can be summed up quite easily. 13-23 from the Foul Line, out-rebounded 37-29, both interior starters fouled out. That was it.
But that’s not really what I’m personally going to talk about here. 4 years. Endless hilarious moments, heartbreaking moments, nervous moments, triumphant moments. This 4-year run started with the opening of the KFC Yum! Center. It ended with a skinny 2-star kid everyone assumed would transfer leaving as the #5 scorer of all-time. 3 Conference Championships, a National Championship. A changed Rick Pitino, and a period of Louisville Basketball History that is unlike any other.
When Preston Knowles broke his foot against Morehead State in a 1st Round Exit to Denver many people openly questioned whether or not the time for Rick Pitino had passed. Who knew what was coming? Who knew that Gorgui Dieng would become a dominant 5-man in college basketball? Or that Coach Pitino would let the reigns off of Russ Smith to put “Russdiculous” on full display. Peyton Siva, Siva’s dad, Luke Hancock’s 3-to-the-dome, Montrezl Harrell’s DUNK after DUNK after DUNK. None of which will ever be topped quite like the Alley OopL Slam in the Georgia Dome.
Don’t forget Wichita, Hendo, or whatever term of endearment we might have for Tim Henderson. The Janitor, SVT, VT, Stephan Van Hustle, Big Hustle, or whatever moniker we’ve had for Stephan Van Treese. These are all champions. National Champions. The strange feeling that took over in the suddenness of Louisville’s exit from the 2014 NCAA Tournament was surreal that this run……it’s finally over. And it was surprising because it never really seemed like a possibility that the run would in fact……END. It’s not tragic, it’s catharsis that the process must now attempt to repeat itself.
2010-11 was a “Bridge Year” for Louisville Basketball. And it bridged into splendor that the program deserved. When we look back on CrumsRevenge videos and say good-bye to this group, it’s going to be hard. Happy, but hard. We’re going to say, “I remember when” and “That was the time” and this group will always be with CardNation. Forever in our hearts.
A new era begins to dawn on Louisville athletics. A new roster, a new league. But the passion that drives the program are the people who support it. Peck Hickman gave way to John Dromo, Dromo to Denny Crum, Denny Crum to Rick Pitino. 3 National Championships, 10 Final Fours, 20 Sweet 16s. The passion for Louisville Basketball will always be the driving force behind its success, and now the program who went 27 years without a title will now possibly have to wait longer than just one season to claim another.
I’ll close with this. RETIRE #2. Russ “Russdiculous” Smith. There hasn’t been another player like him in 100 years of Louisville Basketball and it will take another 100 years (or maybe longer) to find another one like him again.
My hats is off to Russ Smith, Rick Pitino, the entire coaching staff, Luke Hancock, Stephan Van Treese, Tim Henderson, Montrezl Harrell, and the returning Louisville Cardinals. You’ve all given us the ride we asked for. BRAVO. Well-done. And like I always would tell my father at the Fair…….let’s do it again!!!!!!
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