The second stop of my college hoops adventure found me back in the same arena where I witnessed Louisville upset Duke last year – the KFC Yum! Center.
Last years trip was a whirlwind, this year is shaping up to be decisively more tame. The Vandy game was a good warmup for Sunday’s Syracuse-Lousiville event. I had high hopes, as Cuse was coming off a 78-75 buzzer-beater victory over Duke heading into this game against the Cardinals.
But, it was clear from the beginning why Louisville is a top-10 team.
I am getting ahead of myself.
I woke up in Nashville with what I thought was plenty of time to get to downtown Louisville. I forgot about one thing: the hour time change that happens somewhere on the 65.
Thus, I was scrambling by the time I arrived at the media garage. Luckily, I knew exactly where to go thanks to my previous visit. So by the time I got set up in my media seat, next to some hilarious older gentleman who were avid Louisville fans, the whistle had barely blown to signal the start of the game.
The Cardinals suffered one major drought early on that kept Syracuse close for a bit but Louisville pulled away after a 14-4 run to start the second half. The real hero: Cardinals sophomore forward Ray Spalding, who finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds. This performance came after Spalding’s dismal showing at North Carolina where he only contributed four rebounds and two points. That time he took a personal L, but Sunday afternoon he bounced back.
Defensively, Louisville held the Orange to 35.7 percent from the field and 27.6 percent from beyond the arc. And they forced Syracuse into 16 turnovers.
I can’t wait to watch Louisville dominate its way through the NCAA tournament in March.
After the game, I headed for my downtown hotel, ordered room service and collapsed in an exhausted heap. The city lights watched over me as I dreamt of upsets.
The next morning, I ventured out in the rain and explored the downtown Louisville area. I hit the Louisville Slugger Museum:
And on my way out of town, I took a few moments to visit as legend’s final resting place:
After spending the better part of an hour lingering by Muhammed Ali’s grave, reflecting on the quotes etched on his tombstones, I hit the road for Lexington.
Next stop: Vandy at Kentucky.
See you on the other side.