Six Takes on Louisville’s First Regional at the YUM!
Six Takes on Louisville’s First Regional at the YUM!
It was a SUCCESS! There are several ways you can look at the first NCAA Mens Basketball Regional at the KFC YUM Center and one is that it was a success. Considering the YUM had hosted a first round playoff back in 2012, when Kentucky was on their way towards their eighth National Championship, it was not only important, but imperative that fans came out in droves to insure that the NCAA committee would keep Louisville in mind for a future site whether it be first / second round or regional as the closest the NCAA has a playoff is 2021 March 19 and 21 at Lexington’s Rupp Arena for a first and second round. Also it was a great cash cow for local buisness’ that Virginia, Oregon, Purdue and Tennessee advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. Although two of the teams had a local flavor (the Boilermakers and Vols), the Cavaliers some familiarity because of their ACC ties, the Ducks gave us a team which we don’t usually see in this market.
ALL THE POWER CONFERENCES WERE REPRESENTED! With the Vols, Boilermakers, Ducks and Cavs rounding out the final four of the Regional, it was a nice sampling of the Big Ten, ACC, Pac -10 and the SEC. Also, the fan bases were in full force for game one of the Regional on Thursday Night when both Orange and Black clad fans were in full attendance. For the Tennessee-Purdue game, I was seated in the photographers section on the floor right behind the Tennessee band and I can still remember every word of “Rocky Top” as the team band a played it continuously. It wasn’t until I moved up in the upper section to shoot the second half that I realized how many Tennessee and Purdue fans were here for what turned out to be a great first game.
WHAT A FIRST GAME??!!!! If anyone watched Game One of the Regional and came away disappointed (except for the losing team), you had to be a hard person to please as the Boilermakers and Volunteers put on quite a show for the playing crowd. Purdue couldn’t miss in the first half and built an 18-point lead behind the hot shooting of Carsen Edwards (29-points) and Ryan Cline (27-points) with a hot three point shooting game, but the Volunteers staged an epic comeback with Admiral Schofield and Grant Williams, who each had 21-points and actually had a late lead, but five ties, two lead changes and some bad luck led to a tie after regulation (82-82).
After that it was all Purdue, who seized control in the extra period winning 99-94. It was such a long game that while I was shooting the early stages of the OT, I ran into Glen Spalding (Elizabethtown athletic director) and Kelly Wood (5th Region Girls Basketball coach of the year of Marion County), who had a prior engagement and just got there in time to watch the extra period. For Purdue it was sweet redemption for two straight seasons being ousted in the Sweet Sixteen as they advanced to their first Region Final since 2000.
THE OREGON vs. VIRGINIA WAS THE EXACT OPPOSITE! While Tennessee and Purdue combined for 193-points in game one, the second game which was delayed and nearly tipped off around 10 pm was far from a barnburner, but it was close though. The Ducks played the percentages and played at the Cavaliers pace which meant for a slow game, but despite threatening to pull away several times, Virginia finally pulled out a 53-49 win. It was the Cavaliers defense that won it holding the Ducks without a field goal for the last five minutes of the game and Ty Jerome hit an NBA three that put the Cavs up 48-45 with a little over three minutes to go in the game. It was a perfect way for head coach Tony Bennett’s team to end the game as they advanced to the Region Final.
Some PRETTY impressive Numbers! With three games and two that when to overtime, there was plenty to talk about afterwards and stars that really stood out. Did you know that during the Purdue win over Tennessee, there were 27 made three-pointers (out of 55 attempted)? Edwards and Cline did most of the damage for the Boilermakers, while Schofield, Turner (15-points) and Bowden (16-points) for the Volunteers. Edwards continued his hot shooting hand during the Regional Final against Virginia putting up 42-points as the Boilermakers lived and died by the three going 14/32 in that game. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers got great performances by Ty Jerome (24-points) and Kyle Guy (25-points) had great games, but perhaps the biggest basket may have came from Mamadi Diakite. Of his 14-points, none were bigger than his basket as time expired to send the Region Championship to OT.
VIRGINIA FINALLY WINS IT!!! After becoming the first Top seed to lose to a 16-seed in the NCAA Tournament, the Virginia Cavaliers got some redemption in front of a crowded YUM Center Saturday night and with plenty of famous alumni in the stands including Virginia 80’s icon Ralph Sampson, the Cavaliers overcame a late deficit and needed a buzzer beater by Diakite to extend play as Virginia beat Purdue in overtime, 80-75 to advance to the Final Four for the first time since 1984. Head coach Tony Bennett’s team overcame a staggering 42-points and 10-three pointers from Most Outstanding Player of the South Regional Carson Edwards. Still, the Cavs needed some luck in the terms of a missed free throw with second remaining, a fortuatouis bounce to a Virginia Teammate (Kihei Clark), who threw a one handed pass to Diakite, who’s jumper tied things at 70-all. After that, Virginia dominated things winning 80-75 and Bennett got to cut down his first Region Championship net as the team that lost in the most embarrassing way last season, won in the most exciting way (for the second time in two seasons – let’s not forget their comeback win last season at the YUM) in Louisville, KY.