Louisville NCAA Rewind: March 31st
With the 2020 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament cancelled, Louisville Report will go back in time to recap all of the University of Louisville men's basketball's NCAA Tournament games from each date in March and early April. Special thanks to Sports-Reference.com for boxscores and the Courier-Journal for newspaper archives.
Louisville's March 31st NCAA Tournament Record: 3-1
1975: Louisville defeats Syracuse 96-88 (OT)
Just two days after nearly toppling the mighty UCLA Bruins in John Wooden's final season at the helm, the AP No. 4 Louisville Cardinals took out their frustrations on the No. 6 Syracuse Orange in what head coach Denny Crum called a "typical consolation game".
It was a game best described as fringe organized chaos. Louisville did shoot 54.2% from the field and assist on 32 of their 39 made field goals, but also committed an eye-popping 33 turnovers in the process. The Cards also were up by 16 at the intermission, only to ease off the gas and allow Syracuse to force overtime.
"We let up in the second half," said Phillip Bond. "We didn't think we could lose."
Louisville took an 87-80 overtime lead thanks to Allen Murphy and Junior Bridgeman, but like in the second half Syracuse trimmed the lead again, this time to 87-86. Bridgeman however came to the rescue, hitting three free throws and netting two steals in the closing minutes to put Cuse away for good.
The Cards finished with five double digit scorers, with three having at least 20 points. Bridgeman finished just 1 assist shy of a 21 point/11 rebound triple double.
1986: Louisville defeats Duke 72-69
Behind a phenomenal all-around effort from Pervis Ellison and clutch defense from Jeff Hall, the seventh-ranked and second-seeded Louisville Cardinals pulled off the upset against the AP No. 1 Duke Blue Devils to win their second NCAA title in school history.
Being just a freshman didn't hamper Pervis Ellison's ability to get nearly whatever he wanted against Duke. He poured in a game high 25 points with 11 boards to boot, and drew comparisons to one of the all-time greats from the opposing bench.
"Ellison was terrific," Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said after the game. "He does some of the things David Robinson of Navy does expect he has people around him who can take advantage of the things he does."
Although the victory did not come easy. Louisville trailed by three at the half, with Duke guard Johnny Dawkins contributing 15 points in just the first half. However the defensive efforts of Jeff Hall down the stretch helped slow his output. Utilizing an rarely-used 2-3 zone, Hall limited Dawkins to just a pair of free throws in the final 15:27 minutes of the game.
"I just tried to face guard him and deny him the ball," Hall said. "He's awfully hard to stop once he gets the ball, so I just tried to stay right with him."
Herbert Crook joined Ellison in the double double department with 10 points & 12 rebounds, with Billy Thompson also scoring 13.
2012: Kentucky defeats Louisville 69-61
Capping off their miracle 2012 Final Four run, the fourth-seeded Cardinals ran into a proverbial road block in the form of the top-seeded Wildcats, falling to their archival despite giving everything they had on the court.
Despite being the overwhelming underdog heading into the matchup, the Cardinals had a very real chance at pulling off the monumental upset. Louisville tied it up at 9:12 thanks to a 14-3 run primarily led by Peyton Siva, and trailed by just two with 7:34 left while winning the rebounding batting 33-21.
Unfortunately for Louisville, Anthony Davis proved to be too much of a force to overcome. The Freshman & Player of the Year finished with 18 points, 14 boards and 5 blocks, the first time a player posted at least 15 points, 10 rebounds and 5 blocks in a Final Four game since Kansas' Danny Manning in 1988.
Not only did Davis' prowess contribute to the losing effort, but the Cards also proved to be their own worst enemy. They shot just 34.8% from the field, going 20-58 inside the three point line. Siva led the team with 11 points, while Gorgui Dieng cleaned up the boards by hauling in 12 rebounds.
2013: Louisville defeats Duke 85-63
Advancing to their second-consecutive Final Four during their 2013 championship run, the top-seeded Louisville Cardinals rallied the troops to thwart the No. 2 seeded Duke Blue Devils in a game where the score discrepancy was far from the biggest storyline.
At the 6:33 mark of the first half with the Cardinals ahead by just one point, reserve guard Kevin Ware snapped his tibia while contesting a Duke three-pointer. This could have been a point where raw emotion was too much to overcome, but instead the team rallied around him with Ware insisting that he was okay and telling his teammates to "just win the game".
Possessing just a three point lead at the intermission, Louisville came out of the half on a mission. They scored 50 points in the second half alone, while simultaneously insuring that a Duke comeback was not in the cards. The Blue Devils were held without a field goal during an eight minute span in the second half, during which the Cardinals fired off a 20-4 run.
Russ Smith led all scorers with 23 points, and was named the Midwest Regional's Most Outstanding Player. Peyton Siva's 16 and Gorgui Dieng's 14 point/11 rebound double double also insured they would be named to the Midwest Regional's All-Tournament team.
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