It may not have been pretty at times (see Irish, Notre Dame and Huskies, UConn), but the Louisville Cardinals captured their first ever Big East Conference regular season championship on Saturday night at a packed WVU Coliseum in Morgantown with a 62-59 victory over the Mountaineers.
Terrence Williams solidified his spot as the conference’s most valuable player, seemingly carrying the Cards on his back for stretches with 20 points, seven assists, six rebounds, and six steals. His 5-for-6 shooting from beyond the arc caught the Mountaineers off guard in a game where every point was vital.
Jerry Smith put his name into Cardinal lore with a long jumper from the right wing with 55 seconds remaining to give UofL a 60-56 lead. West Virginia’s Da’Sean Butler had a chance to tie the game in the final seconds, but Smith’s straight-up defense forced Butler into a bad shot, securing the game for the Cards.
Mountaineer guard Alex Ruoff was shut down on his Senior Night, being held scoreless off 0-for-4 shooting and plagued by fouls throughout the game. Reserve forward Kevin Jones led the ‘Eers in scoring with 19 to go with his eight boards in 33 minutes.
Think back to late November when the Cards fell to Western Kentucky on the same floor Morehead State pulled off an incredible Ohio Valley Conference Tournament title on Saturday night. Think back again to New Year’s Eve and UofL losing to UNLV at Freedom Hall.
Who would have thought that this Cardinals team would finish the regular season with 16 wins in the Big East Conference, the conference some were saying was in the realm of being the best ever?
By virtue of Pittsburgh’s win earlier in the day over Connecticut, the Cards secured the No. 1 seed in next week’s Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden, meaning they will face the winner of the Providence vs. Cincinnati/DePaul game on Thursday at noon. Expect a preview once the matchup is finalized, and look for a recap following the game right here on the Pinkie.
On to the honors...
Though the box score stats show him finishing with just two points, one rebound, one steal, and one assist in 23 minutes, Preston Knowles played some of the best man-to-man defense by a Louisville player this season.
I’m not sure about the particulars, but I’m guessing he had double-digit deflections, and there’s no way the man he was responsible for scored more than two baskets on the evening. It was a tremendous job by one of the relatively unheralded players on this Louisville roster.
Would the people discounting the Cards’ conference regular season championship as a result of “easy” scheduling please shut up? So Louisville didn’t play Pittsburgh or Connecticut twice this year, but I’m not sure many other Big East teams could have come into Morgantown on Senior Night and quieted the Gameday Crazies.
Some of these so-called “experts” are making it sound like Louisville is still in Conference USA playing Memphis’ schedule, while the rest of the Big East squads play “real” teams. Give me a break!
The Ari Wolfe
I believe this one belongs to the Mountaineer Man, also known as the most annoying mascot in sports. C’mon man! I see that you can grow a beard, whoop-de-doo! And what’s with the gun? Is security so weak inside the WVU Coliseum that you need to bring your own protection? Keep on shooting, and keep on burning!
Anyways, the Cards just won the Big East Conference, and not even Ari Wolfe can diminish that accomplishment!