The University of Louisville Alumni Magazine: for alumni, faculty, staff, students and anyone that is a UofL Cardinal fan.
Issue link: http://louisville.epubxp.com/i/141236
I t's astounding how something as simple as a game of basketball and a special group of talented student athletes can tie our community closer together. It happened this year. Without question. The men's and women's basketball teams in 2012-2013 showed us what it means to play together, unselfishly and tirelessly, as one unit working toward one goal. They epitomized the collective and communal momentum of UofL — rising to the occasion. Just look around campus, and around the city, and you'll see how far this metropolitan university has come. And how far it is destined to go. That feeling of pride extends well beyond the playing field. From the classrooms to the research laboratories to the zones of new construction, the time when UofL steps onto the national stage is here. A Sugar Bowl victory, a women's Final Four and a men's national championship are really just the beginning. But before we look ahead, let's look back at a truly remarkable accomplishment. GUT CHECK One of the greatest runs in UofL history began in earnest on a down note, a five-overtime, 104-101 loss at Notre Dame on Feb. 9. In a locker room after that loss, Cardinals coach Rick Pitino outlined a new vision for his team for the rest of the season. The Cards' championship run would begin with a pledge. As he outlined the goals — one by one — for them, Pitino actually had the team repeat them out loud. The goals were these: They would win their final seven regular season games. They would go to Madison Square Garden in New York and win the final BIG EAST Tournament, but they would not cut down the nets. They would earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and hope for a chance to play in their home state, at Rupp Arena in Lexington. They would win two games and hope to play in front of their home fans in the Indianapolis Regional. They would return to the Final Four, but not cut down the nets. They would win in the national semifinals, where they had lost to Kentucky a year earlier, and they would finally cut down the nets after winning the national championship. "I gave them very demanding goals," Pitino said. "I told them 'It's not probable what I'm about to say to you, but I think it's possible.' To be honest with you, I'm just so amazed that they could accomplish everything that we put out there. I'm absolutely amazed as a basketball coach." The good times got rolling after the Cardinals came from 16 points down to Syracuse in the final BIG EAST Tournament championship in Madison Square Garden. With his team trailing by 13 at halftime, Pitino asked his players, "Is this how you're going to represent our university? Is this how you're going to go out?" He told them to figure it out. They did. They roared from 16 behind to 18 ahead to win their second straight BIG EAST Tournament championship, capped by a visit from former President Bill Clinton to their postgame locker room celebration. THE LONG AND ARDUOUS ROAD "For a few weeks, we felt like America's team," junior forward Luke Hancock said, and it's hard to argue with him. 22|LOUISVILLE.EDU It was about more than basketball. From the compelling storylines of individual players and head coach Pitino to the international story of sophomore guard Kevin Ware's gruesome broken leg in the Midwest Regional Final against Duke and the public reaction to his courageous response, this UofL team provided a narrative that captured the nation. The Cardinals navigated two lopsided victories in Rupp Arena, beating North Carolina A&T and Colorado State. Russ Smith set an NCAA Tournament single-game record with eight steals in the first of those wins. After the second, Colorado State coach Larry Eustachy said, "I don't want to put the pressure on Rick and his guys, but they're special. The way he gets them to play for 40 minutes, with that level of preparation, is as impressive as I've ever seen." As Eustachy passed UofL athletic director Tom Jurich, his old college roommate, in the interview room, he slapped him on the back and said, "Buckle up. It's going to be a long ride." It was. After a victory over Oregon in front of 30,000-plus Cardinal fans in Indianapolis' Lucas Oil Stadium, the Cardinals would play in a classic regional final that pitted Pitino against Mike Krzyzewski for the first time in NCAA Tournament play since their famous "Christian Laettner shot" meeting in the 1993 NCAA Regional finals when Pitino coached at Kentucky. With 6:33 left in the first half of a game that had been billed as one of the highlights of the tournament, Ware went up for a shot and landed on his right leg, snapping his tibia on national television. Many of his teammates collapsed. Equipment manager Vinny Tatum was the first to reach Ware (Top left) The newly crowned and covered his exposed bone National Champion Cardinals with a towel. Fred Hina arrived celebrate their historic win right after and did the same. on stage; (Top right) Forward While UofL players gathered Chane Behanan gets all ball themselves, many of them on a block under the paint; unable to look at the injury, team (Bottom) No. 2 Russ Smith captain Luke Hancock knelt by drives into heavy Oregon Ware's side and started talking to traffc on his way to scoring 31