Loyal reader and fellow Card fan Neil had tickets for last night's Louisville v. Syracuse game at Freedom Hall. Since we have a couple other Card fans who visit HHR, along with some Syracuse fans, ol' Rev put together a running diary of last night's events at the Hall:
Pregame: Neil and I wait in line for a beer. A $4.75, 16 oz. beer. Folks, that's a steal. Not only does it make the game enjoyable, but it's help turn Louisville into one of the most profitable athletic programs in the country.
This is they seven o'clock game, so I'm thinking we'll have an A-list announcing crew. And I'm right - Bill Raftery is in the house. It's too bad I'm not watching at home because I love his commentary.
Tipoff: The Cards and 'Cuse come on the court for the tip. Damn, 'Cuse looks big ... that's a whole lot of orange-colored fabric out there ...
20:00: ... and 'Cuse wins the tip. They pump the ball into the middle, but blow a bunny layup. Cards on the break - and promptly Earl Clark records the first bucket of the game. 2-0 Cards.
18:30: The Cards defense looks good in the halfcourt, forcing a confused offensive possesion by the Orange. Cards come down the court, and its .... THREEEEE, Mc GEEEEE!!!! 5-0 Cards.
17:59: Jim Boeheim has that bad seafood look on his face, hands on his hips. Hoping that look continues for another 35 minutes or so.
17:22: Syracuse scores in the halfcourt, but promptly yields another Andre McGee three at the other end. 8-2 Cards.
17:10: Dontae Green has the answer - 3 for Syracuse. Let's hope he doesn't explode tonight. 8-5 Cards.
16:13: The home crowd is still filing into Freedom Hall. For a nationally televised game and first place in the Big East on the line, I'm surprised by the relative lack of passion or concern.
15:45: Syracuse goes to the line and hits a free throw. 8-6 Cards.
We go to the under-16 timeout and the cheerleaders start to go crazy, throwing T-shirts into the crowd emblazoned with the logo of a local grocery chain. For a home crowd not that interested in the game, people are clawing for these cheap T-shirts they'll probably never wear. Never ceases to amaze.
15:15: Syracuse breaks the Louisville press, get an easy dunk - and a foul on David Padgett! Free throw good, 9-8 'Cuse.
14:59: Derrick Caracter enters the game for Louisville. He looks like a refrigerator. Seriously, wheel this guy in on a dolly. Still no help, 'Cuse scores again - 11-8 'Cuse.
14:34: THREEEEEE, SO-SA!!!!! We're tied at 11.
12:30: During a time-out, we're encouraged to visit rickpitino.com. Probably a whole site devoted to media double-speak and fashion tips on how to wear white linen suits on national TV. Cult of personality is alive and well in Kentucky.
11:11: Sloppy game to this point - neither team seems to know what they're doing out there, so mercifully we go to the under-12 timeout.
Unfortunately, during the under-12, we learn during a public service announcement that 41% of all babies born in Kentucky are born to unwed mothers. I am flabbergasted.
Kentucky. Doing our best to bring the third-world to America.
10:35: The refs blow an obvious goal-tending call against Syracuse. Pitino explodes off the bench, waving his arms like an electrocuted madman to no avail. The Orange extend their lead to 17-14.
9:00: Three-point specialist Will Scott enters the game for the Cards. He promptly misses a 3 to tie the game. Since he's worthless on D, Syracuse is now playing 5 on 4 in the halfcourt.
8:10: Syracuse brings the ball up against the Louisville press with obvious difficulty, alternately carrying the ball and portraying some form of the Olympic triple-jump across the halfcourt stripe. Neil senses a Big East officiating conspiracy; I concur.
5:45: Great sequence: Caracter gets a tough rebound in traffic and puts the ball back up for 2. The Cards press rachets up a notch, forcing a 10 second violation against the Orange. DC closes it off with another putback, putting the Cards on top 22-20.
Coach Boeheim has that sour look on his face again. Timeout, Syracuse.
4:14: UofL's press is still causing major problems for the Orange. They barely get it across halfcourt, and then kick the ball around in the halfcourt for a shot clock violation.
2:56: The Cards are collecting a lot of small change fouls, keeping the Orange within striking distance. 2 'Cuse FT's are good, 24-22 Cards.
2:04: And in a recurring theme, it's another Louisville foul and Syracuse trip to the line. Two more FT's tie the game at 24. In all, Syracuse has shot 13 out of 17 from the line in the half. It's beginning to look like one of those terribly officiated Duke vs. anyone-in-the-ACC games.
49.4: Finally, a foul against SU and a well-deserved Bronx cheer for the refs. Juan Palacios hits two FT's for the Cards, putting the home team up 26-24.
20.0: But the good times don't last - Paul Harris comes back down the court to answer for the Orange with a 2 of his own. Jerry Smith misses a shot at the buzzer, and the teams go into halftime tied at 26 a piece.
Halftime: Freedom Hall is one of the great college basketball arenas in the country and a great place to watch a game (see $4.75 beers earlier). However, it is over 50 years old and definitely showing its age.
And like any good arena built in the 50's, it seems like it has exactly two restrooms, one on either side of the facility. All the desperate looks on the faces around me, it looks like a UN refugee camp trying to break through the gates here.
It takes a good 15 minutes to get through the restroom because apparently everyone else has discovered the $4.75 beers. I wouldn't dwell on the restroom story other than to note that as I am walking out, some brave soul with a blue "I AM WILDCAT" shirt comes walking in. Judging by the reception he receives, I'm assuming a fistfight is about 0.3 seconds away from taking place.
... Back to the Game: We open the second half with more of the same sloppy play with missed shots on both ends. Seriously, both teams must be shooting below 20% for the game. Not good.
16:30: After a made bucket by UL, Jerry Smith hits a three for for the Cards. The lead is 31-26. Freedom Hall is starting to shake ... and we get our first big C-A-R-D-S cheer of the night! The 'Cuse better not let this thing get out of hand.
16:15: Spoke too soon - Paul Harris drives against Padgett, scores the bucket and gets fouled. Just when it looked like the Cards might be making their run, we're back to a two-point game, 31-29.
13:30: U of L's press continues to cause problems for the Orange - they look like they're playing way faster than they want to. Cards keep scoring, extending their lead to 41-36. Paul Harris looks frustrated - off comes the orange headband.
11:55: It's the Louisville Lady Lacrosse team! And they have t-shirts for the crowd! Seriously, I give the U of L athletic department a lot of credit for helping to clothe thousands of Kentuckians tonight.
11:30: Caracter forces a Syracuse turnover at halfcourt! He throws it right to ... ugh, Syracuse guard Jonny Flynn who calmy buries a three from Reggie Miller's tittie. It's 41-39. It's beginning to look like upset city on Big Monday.
10:00: Cardinal freshman Preston Knowles enters the game. He hounds Flynn into a 'Cuse turnover, passes ahead to Edgar Sosa ... and buries a three of his own! After two free throws the previous trip, the lead is back to 46-40.
8:30: Highlight of the evening: Terrence Williams breaks out down the left wing, crosses over to the right, and throws down monstrous dunk over Dontae Green in transition! That one is definitely going up on the top ten plays of the night. Grown men are jumping out of their seats as Freedom Hall gets as loud as it has been all night. Boeheim quickly calls for a timeout, but this place is rocking.
8:29: C-A-R-D-S! C-A-R-D-S! C-A-R-D-S!
7:00: Referee Jim Burr whistles Derrick Caracter for a foul 30' away from the play. The boo birds have returned for the referees. Meanwhile, Syracuse has rebounded from the mental shellacking of the Williams dunk and trimmed the lead to 50-44.
5:30: Greg Paulus must be wearing a Syracuse jersey tonight, because the Orange defender just flopped pathetically just like the esteemed and aforementioned Duke "actor". Jerry Smith gets whistled for a charge, easily the worst call of the night. Referree Jim Burr doing his best to keep this game close. He needs a security escort out of this place tonight.
3:45: Caracter gets dunked on inside. Coach Boeheim nods approvingly. It's 52-48, and I'm officially nervous. I tell the Syracuse fan in front of me that I'm glad Gerry McNamara no longer has any eligibility. He laughs maniacally. Pitino calls a timeout. We need a play.
3:37: The play doesn't work. 'Cuse scores again, 52-50. Bad thoughts are running through my mind.
1:30: The Cards come down in the halfcourt and work the ball around the Orange zone. Terrence Williams is open on the baseline from 12 feet ... and he buries it! A sigh of relief from the crowd, 54-50 Cards.
0.50: Now a steal! Cards come up court, go inside out ... and find a wide open Andre McGee for three!!! 57-50, and that's the ballgame!
33.9: Syracuse hurriedly runs it up court, loses the ball, and Jerry Smith coasts in for an uncontested dunk. Cards up, 59-50!
13.1: Apparently realizing the line on the game is UofL -10, Syracuse hands another gift turnover to the Cards, and it's another Jerry Smith dunk. Now 61-50. The miraculous 9-0 run has saved the game and covered the line. A lot of red-clad people are very happy in here.
Next up, Cards at Pittsburgh. See you all on Sunday afternoon.