2 – Cardiac Cards
The 2012 basketball season was like riding a roller coaster. It had moments that made me laugh, smile, cry, and sick. I don’t think there has ever been a season where I have experienced such a wide variety of emotions. And on March 25 I had no idea that in one game I would shuffle through all those emotions again.
The Cardinals were on an impressive 7 game winning streak that included the run that won a Big East championship. But they weren’t done yet. Game number 8 would be the regional championship game in the NCAA tournament. It would be against the Florida Gators for the chance to advance to the Final Four. This game had all of the build up that you would expect from a regional championship but had something a little extra. Rick Pitino would be facing his former player and the guy he called a son Billy Donovan.
Donovan 0-7 versus his old coach would have a game plan early in this one that would give his Gators the lead 41-33 at the half. The Gator sharp shooters were having a field day with the Louisville zone hitting 8-11 from 3 point range. Rick would make some adjustments of his own at half time bringing his Cardinals out of the zone and putting them in the face of the Gator shooters.
With 10 minutes left in the game the Gators had a 60-49 advantage when the adjustments seemed to swing things in favor of the Cardinals. The Gators would miss all nine attempts from the 3 point line and get sloppy with the ball leading to 14 turnovers. With this aggressive defense the Cardinals would pay the price losing Peyton Siva to 5 fouls with 3:58 left in the game. But as they had done many times during the season the Cardinals would overcome this adversity. Louisville players Dieng, Smith, and Behanan stepped up finishing the game on a 23-8 run stunning the Gators with a 72-68 victory and punching their ticket to the Final Four.
Several times during this game I felt like it was going to be the end of the road for our Louisville Cardinals. At one point in the game I actually turned the channel. But just as they had done all season they found a way to win. They put a bow on this remarkable season with a regional championship. It was a comeback for the ages and a moment that ranks #2 in my countdown.