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 22nd NCAA Tournament Record: 7-2
1975: Louisville defeats Maryland 96-82
In a game where both teams possessed blazing speed, the No. 3 ranked Louisville Cardinals darted past the No. 4 ranked Maryland Terrapins 96-82 to advance to their third Final Four in school history and their second under the guidance of head coach Denny Crum.
“I’m so happy to be going back to California,” head coach Denny Crum said following the win. The victory against the Terps set up a national semifinal showdown with John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins, where Crum was an assistant for three years, in San Diego.
Louisville’s depth was on full display against Maryland. When Junior Bridgeman and Allen Murphy got into early foul trouble in the first half, the reserves took over. Phillip Bond took over the scoring efforts with a 23 point performance, and Wesley Cox & Bill Bunton took over rebounding duties as they combined for 21 boards.
‘I never have felt this was a one-man team and this game proved it,” Bridgeman said, finishing with just 13 points. “One man teams get beat. This is not a two-man team either. It is a 12-man team. Everyone did a job today.”
1980: Louisville defeats Iowa 80-72
Riding on the backs of their All-American and taking advantage of a short-handed opponent, the No. 2 seeded Louisville Cardinals rocketed past the fifth-seeded Iowa Hawkeyes 80-72 to vault into their first ever championship game appearance.
Senior Darrell Griffith, a consensus All-American and Wooden Award winner, flirted with NCAA Tournament history. His 14 made field goals were just 2 shy of the-then-record of 16 (now 25), and his 34 points fell just short of the then-record 38 (now 61).
“I took what was given me,” Griffin said. “I didn’t force anything.”
Not only did the efforts of Griffith vault the Cards into the title game, but Iowa was dealt a crushing blow just barely into the game. With 7:47 left in the first half, Iowa’s Ronnie Lester went down after the two-time All-Big Ten guard collided with UofL’s Roger Burkman and suffered a knee injury. He would not return to the game.
Rodney McCray and Derek Smith also had double digit performances for Louisville, with the Cardinals as a while shooting 59.6% from he field and winning the rebounding battle by 10.
1984: Kentucky defeats Louisville 72-67
Playing in a de facto road game just one year removed from the 1983 “Dream Game” that reignited the interstate rivalry, the No. 5 Louisville Cardinals could not replicate the magic they conjured in the previous tournament, falling to the No. 1 seeded Kentucky Wildcats 72-67 in Rupp Arena.
While the Cards ultimately fell, they were very much in the game. In fact with 7:51 left in the game, Louisville lead by two and had been in control up to that point. But then the tides turned thanks in part to UK guard Dickey Beal, who powered Kentucky to a 10-0 run and never looked back.
“He’s a motivating factor for their team,” Louisville guard Lancaster Gordon said, who finished with a game-high 25 points. “He did a good job of getting inside and got a few steals.”
Taking the Cats to the brink, Louisville head coach Denny Crum believed that while UK deserved the win, the result might have been different had they not played a true road game.
“Maybe on a neutral floor it might have been different,” Crum said. “But that’s something we’ll never know.”
1986: Louisville defeats Auburn 84-76
Thanks to a set of defensive changes made by head coach Denny Crum in the second half, the second-seeded Cardinals were able to pull away from the eight-seeded Tigers, defeating Auburn 84-76 to advance to move on to the Final Four in their 1986 title run.
Despite trailing by 1 at halftime, the Tigers’ shooting was not to blame. Auburn shot a blazing 62.5% in the first half, and with ten minutes left in the second half took a 1 point lead with everything trending in their direction.
This is when Crum decided to make a defensive change. Being a switching man-to-man coach, he made the call to switch to a 1-1-3 zone and later a 2-3 zone in an attempt to disrupt Auburn’s rhythm.
“Timing has so much to do with it,” Crum said. “I didn’t want to rush into something and give them tine to adjust.”
It worked. Auburn would sink just three field goals over ht next nine minutes and shoot just 43.3% in the second half. Louisville also had a complete team effort on the offensive end, getting double digit scoring efforts from every starter. Pervis Ellison and Herbert Crook led the way for the Cards with each having a double double.
1992: UCLA defeats Louisville 85-69
Just over one month after meeting in the regular season, the No. 8 seeded Cardinals once again fell to the top-seeded UCLA Bruins, this time to the tune of 85-69 to end their season.
Louisville lead just once in the entire game, when Greg Minor scored the game’s first basket to take a 2-0 lead. From there on, it was UCLA from start to finish. The Cards could only shoot 41.4% as opposed to UCLA’s 48.9%, lost the rebounding battle by 9, and sunk 19 less foul shots on 21 fewer attempts.
“I thought UCLA was in control all the way,” head coach Denny Crum said. “There was never any question.”
The Bruins had three of the game’s top 3 scorers, with Don MacLean & Tracy Murray each having 20 point games. Louisville reserve guard James “Boo” Brewer led the Cards with 13 points off the bench and 5 field goals.
2009: Louisville defeats Sienna 79-72
Playing in a much closer game than what was expected, the overall No. 1 seeded Louisville Cardinals held off the eight-seeded Siena Saints long enough for to advance to the Sweet 16 behind a 79-72 win.
Before he was the head coach for the Iowa Hawkeyes, Fran McCaffrey’s Siena squad was giving Louisville fits on offense. The Saints forced the Cards to turn the ball over 17 times, with 8 of them coming from Siena steals. They were also led by the duo of Edwin Ubiles & Alex Franklin, as they combined for 43 points and 17 of their 29 made field goals.
Had it not been for their shooting, the Cardinals might have been sent home early. Louisville shot 49.2% from the field and 45.0% on three-point attempts. Terrence Williams served as the Cards’ offensive barometer, as he poured in a game high 24 points on 9-14 shooting including 4-6 from beyond the arc.
2012: Louisville defeats Michigan State 57-44
Continuing on their 2012 miracle run to the Final Four, the No. 4 seeded Cardinals pulled off their biggest win of the season by routing the No. 1 seeded Michigan State Spartans 57-44.
Without question the leading storyline heading into the game was the play of Michigan State forward Draymond Green. The consensus All-American and Big Ten Player of the Year averaged a double double for the year and was also a force to be reckoned with on the block defensively.
The Spartans took a 7-5 advantage with 10 minutes left in the first half, but then Louisville kicked it into high gear. A pair of Jared Swopshire three pointers in the first half got a Cardinals run going, then in the second half Gorgui Dieng & Chane Behanan went to work erasing Draymond Green’s effectiveness.
Dieng hauled in 9 defensive rebounds while blocking a career high 7 shots, with Behanan also hauling in 9 boards and a game high 15 points.
“Gorgui was brilliant and Chane was brilliant,” head coach Rick Pitino said. “They were absolute warriors. I’m so proud of all these guys.”
2014: Louisville defeats Saint Louis 66-51
Just two days removed from playing a chippy game against the the Manhattan Jaspers in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, the No. 4 seeded Cardinals once again found themselves in a rock fight, this time against the fifth-seeded Saint Louis Billikens in a 66-51 victory.
“These last two games have been some of the most physical games we’ve played in a long time,” Louisville forward Montrezl Harrell said.
As you can imagine, the game was anything but pretty as both teams turned it over 18 times with nine steals a piece. With the Billikens having top tier defense yet an anemic offense, it was not surprising to them shoot just 39.6% from the field and go 0-15 on three point attempts.
A defensive-minded team themselves, Louisville was able to generate just enough offense to carry them onto the Sweet 16. Luke Hancock poured in a game high 21 points thanks in part to four three pointers, and Harrell helped clean up the boards with an 11 rebound/10 point double double.
2015: Louisville defeats Northern Iowa 66-53
Barely squeaking by UC Irvine in the opening round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament, the No. 4 seeded Cardinals had a much easier time in the Round of 32, cruising past the fifth-seeded Northern Iowa Panthers to advance to their 28th Sweet 16 in program history.
A team that had been bewildered on offense for most of the season, wound up playing some of their most efficient basketball. They shot 45.8% from the field, connected on 5 of their 11 three pointers, an assisted on 50% of their made baskets.
Louisville had four players finish with double digit scoring, with Terry Rozier leading all scorers with 24 on 8-13 shooting. Quentin Snider & Wayne Blackshear also chipped in with a pair of threes, with the latter becoming the 67th 1000-point scorer in program history.
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