The sun did not shine on Sunday in Naptown. The gray skies that hovered around downtown Indianapolis all day made their way indoors to Lucas Oil Stadium, and the Louisville Cardinals were defeated 64-52 in the NCAA Midwest Regional Championship by second-seeded Michigan State.
It was not supposed to end this way, not in the Elite Eight. Not in Indianapolis. Not against a Big Ten team. And certainly, not with this group of Cardinal basketball players.
The Cardinals’ performance was a stark contrast to their 103-64 domination over Arizona on Friday night. That high-flying, “Showtime” style the nation witnessed two days prior, looked like a fluke against the Spartans, as green and white defenders filled in every passing lane, scrapped for loose rebounds and tip-ins, and royally dominated the Cards.
Terrence Williams was unbelievably a non-factor in this one, scoring five points to go with six rebounds and four assists in 35 minutes. Samardo Samuels was plagued with foul trouble and ultimately shutdown and shutout by Michigan State’s Goran Suton. Samuels tallied seven rebounds and four turnovers to close the book on his freshman season.
Suton was a beast for the Spartans. Louisville had no answer at any point of the game for his prowess. The Cards played loose on him outside during the first frame, but the 6'10" Lansing native was able to drain a trio of three-point shots. In the second half, U of L collapsed on him, oftentimes double-teaming Suton on the baseline, which led to four assists on the night to open outside shooters. He finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds.
The Cardinals were able to only make 18 of their 47 shots from the field. Of those 18 shots made for the game, Earl Clark (8-17, 19 pts) and Preston Knowles (4-7, 11 pts) made 12 of them and combined for 30 of the 52 points.
A big key for Michigan State in the win included not allowing Louisville to get into the open court. The Spartans were more than willing to foul Louisville whenever a Cardinal breakaway presented itself. As a result, State allowed U of L to score zero fast break points. In turn, when the Cardinals did score, old Sparty did a tremendous job of quickly inbounding the ball, mostly to the free throw line extended, and having the big men handle the ball up the court, forcing Louisville back into their half-court defense.
The Cards, and the 25,000-plus red clad fans in the arena, were shocked about what they were witnessing throughout the game. The rhythm and flow Cardinal fans had come to expect ever since the Notre Dame game never existed, leading to one of the most frustrating and relatively boring games for Louisville fans in a long time.
With such an abrupt and blindsiding end to a season, we’re suspending the honors for this one. Later in the week, we’ll take a look back down memory lane with a recap of the Pinkie crew’s crazy visit to Indianapolis for the game, and Rolf and I will try to summarize this version of the Louisville basketball team. But for now, all Cardinal fans can do is try and make sense of what they witnessed on Sunday afternoon. The sun will still rise again...we think.
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