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    On Senior Day, Louisville Basketball Upsets Virginia 58-57 Via an Unlikely Hero
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    For Senior Day when the University of Louisville basketball Cardinals (24-7, 12-6 ACC) would say goodbye to Wayne Blackshear, the Cards drew the number 2 team in the country in Virginia (28-2, 16-2). Though the fans were in a sea of red, it was time to win one for the last time we’d see Blackshear, and most likely Montrezl Harrell, in a Cardinal uniform at the KFC Yum! Center. They went out in style, taking out The Cavaliers 59-57.

    The 14th ranked Cardinals dropped a game earlier this week to number 11 Notre Dame at home. Now the competition got ratchet up another notch. History was on their side since they’ve won 12 of the last 13 Senior Day games but this was a different level of competition so this would be even tougher.

    Coach Rick Pitino says that Blackshear is having his best season ever and that is statistically true. Detractors have said all season that Blackshear never got to the level expected of a McDonald’s All-American. That, however, negates his leadership skills which never shows up on the stat sheet. He also poured in 31 points in a game earlier this season. Looking deeper, you see he’s had at least 5 rebounds in 15 games. No, the numbers aren’t gaudy, but it looks like he came to play most of the season.

    The team honored Harrell, too, for his contributions which include passion and excitement and production in both points and rebounds. He continually racked up double-doubles and he’s the fiery head of the Cardinals. No question. He’s expected to be an NBA lottery pick. Curiously, the team did not bring out the honors for Rozier. A message that he’s staying, perhaps?

    On to the game, the Cards came out loose and, fittingly, opened the game with a triple from Blackshear. It set the tone early that Louisville was not to be intimidated by the second best team in the country. The Cavaliers, for their part, maintained their poise and patience in the face of the Cardinal scoring avalanche. It was an avalanche that’s been missing most of the year.

    Patience, however, is the strongest suit of the Virginia team. They just continued to plug along and didn’t wither in the face of Harrell dunks, including a pretty one that came on a steal and run out. No, they just went into their half court offense and played the way they play.

    Louisville led at the half 30-25, so they were in good shape coming into the second stanza. Harrell had 8 points and 5 rebounds so it was looking like a double-double coming from him again. Blackshear had 5. Disturbing, though, was the lack of assists. Not a lot of sharing coming from the Cardinals.

    To open the second half, Louisville went on another run before Virginia did their slow walk back to, at one point, take the lead, which they hadn’t held at all in the first half. The Cards had trouble getting Rozier and Blackshear going due to the Cavalier defense. Being the second ranked team in the nation, they weren’t about to go away.

    Rebounding was mostly even and so were second chance points. The Cards got some advantages, though with points inside and off the fast break. UVA ended up taking a one point lead with :09 seconds left so it was hero time. And who would step up? Would it be shooter Terry Rozier or triple specialist Wayne Blackshear? Would they go inside with Montrezl Harrell or stay outside with Quentin Snider, who quietly scored 11 points in the contest.

    Good options considering that Harrell scored 20 points and pulled in 12 boards. Rozier found the handle and put in 11 to go along with 7 rebounds. Blackshear had 9 and has proven that he can be a dead eye shot.

    Actually Pitino bypassed all those options and fed the ball to Mangok Mathiang for an outside jumper. The KFC Yum! Center held its collect breath. “Mangok was the 64th option,” Pitino joked after the game.

    And it went. And the roof tiles at the Yum! Center nearly ended up in the Ohio River. The Cards go next to the ACC tournament in Greensboro, North Carolina.

    Photos by: Tim Girton/Louisville.com

     

    Tim Girton's picture

    About Tim Girton

    Tim Girton writes about University of Louisville sports here at Louisville.com and his love for Louisville continues on his photoblog, called This Is Louisville.

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