Sunday, March 8, 2015

Mathiang Exorcises Demons with Unlikey Jumper

Every fan base has moments where it felt its team was snakebit, but it seems like University of Louisville fans have had more than their fair share.
Mango Mathiang lifts Louisville

I first felt the sting in 1981 when U.S. Reed hit a half-court shot at the buzzer to send my beloved Cards packing from the NCAA tournament. I’ve felt it again many times since in nearly every sport.
Sure, there have been monumental wins that any fanbase would be lucky to have: NCAA championships (men’s basketball), championship games (women’s basketball and soccer), Final Fours, Sweet 16s, BCS bowl wins and College World Series appearances. But there also has been a lot of pain. 

Here’s just a few of the agonizing moments that I remember:

  • After coughing up a big lead, a marginal foul call at the buzzer gives Kentucky’s Patrick Sparks the three free throws UK needs to beat the Cards.
  • With the football team in control and well on its way to a key win at West Virginia, the Cards injure the Mountaineers’ starting quarterback. Enter Pat White who literally runs wild, leading WVU all the way back to victory.
  • With Louisville in a rock fight against Morehead State in the NCAA basketball tournament, the Cards best player and emotional leader, Preston Knowles, is hurt and Morehead advances.
  • With Louisville football about to tack on another touchdown to an already big lead over Central Florida, the ball is fumbled through the end zone, resulting in a touchback. The Knights rally and take the Cards’ BCS bid.
You get the picture … and I haven’t even talked about fake fair catches and second chance field goals.
I say all of this to give some perspective on what happened Saturday night at the Yum Center when Mango Mathiang hit an unlikely jump shot with just over two seconds left to lift Louisville past second-ranked Virginia. U of L Head Coach Rick Pitino joked that Mathiang was the 64th option on the plan, having missed 15 of his last 16 shots, most of them coming from much closer to the basket than Saturday’s game winner.
In the world of the unlikely, this ranked right up there with the best of them. Karma, which had taven away so much, finally had given some back.
On that fateful possession, Virginia Coach Tony Bennett did his job. He blanketed the Cards’ biggest threats, Terry Rozier and Montrezl Harrell. He even took away their secondary options, Wayne Blackshear and Quentin Snider. If you told Bennett before the game that his team’s fortunes would rest on Mathiang making a contested shot from 15 feet, he surely would’ve taken you up on it.
Not this time. Mathiang channeled his inner U.S. Reed, exorcising a few (but not all) demons in the process. Now, for the moment, it’s the Cavaliers’ fans who are surely cursing their bad luck. I know exactly how they feel.
How about you? What snakebit moments do you remember?


Anonymous said...

As painful as everyone of the bad memories you listed above were, the one that's still the most painful is Woodny Turenne allowing Stevie Johnson to be wide open for the game-winning touchdown in the Governor's Cup.

Losing to a bitter rival in such a fashion has to be one of the worst losses imaginable.

Doug Bennett Jr. said...

I was at that game and I can tell you that it was especially painful leaving Commonwealth that day. UK fans were as unruly and insulting as I've ever seen them.