Monday, March 19, 2007

Louisville Recap

Game Recap

Alright – I guess since it has been nearly 67 hours since the end of the game I can go ahead and get started on the Louisville Recap.

The good guys defeated Louisville in front of a highly partisan crowd of over 20,000 on Saturday afternoon by a final score of 72-69. As a reward for their victory, the Aggies have played their way into just their second Sweet Sixteen appearance in the history of the school and their first trip since 1980.

In trying to sum up some of the emotions after the game, I think the one that I kept coming back to over and over again was happiness.

I am happy for Acie Law – the most celebrated player in the history of the program has now led his team as far as any other Aggie team before him (and hopefully even further).

I am happy for Dominique Kirk – a tireless worker and tough-nosed defender who has now become a major offensive threat for the Aggies while lighting up the boxscore in Lexington. No disrespect to Acie Law, but #22 should have been the Chevrolet Player of the Game on Saturday afternoon.

I am happy for Billy Gillispie – Coach was so excited and emotional at the press conference after the game that when Acie, Kirk and Joe Jones got up to leave the podium, Coach looked at the SID running the show and asked (into an open microphone), “Can I hug my guys?” As each of them walked off the podium he gave them a huge hug, one-by-one.

I am happy for you guys – the fans of what has been ultimate mediocrity for nearly as long as many of us have been alive.

We used to be so excited when an Aggie team would knock off Texas or a ranked OSU team. It was not even very long ago that something as simple as beating Baylor used to seem so satisfying. Over the past three years all of this has now moved from being viewed as surprising to now being expected.

How long will this last? Heck, I have no idea, but I do know this much, I am going to enjoy the ride while it lasts. Soak it up, all of it, from the daily mentions on SportsCenter, to the countless articles being published in every newspaper across the country. It may not ever be this good ever again.

With the win over Louisville, the Aggies have thrust themselves into the center of the college basketball universe and will be front and center the remainder of the week leading up to tip-off at 6:27 on Thursday evening.

If you were fortunate enough to procure a couple of tickets to the game on Thursday, have a great time. The Alamodome should be an awesome sight as that place will be awash in maroon clad fans. Yell like there is no tomorrow, because if the Aggies don’t win, there isn’t.

OK – Let’s take a quick look back at the win on Saturday.

The Cardinals came out on a huge wave of momentum, no doubt spurred by a great majority of the arena being filled with rabid fans all dressed in black and red, and jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead.

The Aggies finally settled in over the next few minutes of gametime and pulled back to within two points of the Cardinals at 15-17 when Josh Carter hit his only basket of the day (a three-pointer at the 10:07 mark).

Trouble for the Aggies mounted rather quickly in the first frame as Acie Law picked up his 2nd foul of the game at the 9:27 mark, and Josh Carter picked up his 3rd foul shortly after at the 7:57 mark.

With regards to Carter, he was simply overmatched by the athleticism of Louisville guard Terrence Williams. Williams continuously whipped Carter from all angles on the floor using screens, picks, motion and dribble-penetration. More often than not Carter was simply forced to grab Williams or foul him while trying to recover from getting beat.

With regards to Acie’s foul problems, Gillispie went into desperation mode, and over the last 10 minutes of the first half he substituted Acie in and out of the game 5 times in an effort to prevent his senior guard from picking up his 3rd foul before halftime.

I thought Donald Sloan did a great job of filling in for Acie in the first half; the freshman showed that he is not afraid to come into the game in a pressure situation and run the offense.

As the two teams headed to the break, the game was all tied up at 28 apiece as Dominique Kirk scored the final 4 points of the half to bring the game back to “all square”.

Providing most of the work for the Cardinals in the first half was Terrence Williams (8 points) and Edgar Sosa (10 points). Acie Law (9 points), Dominique Kirk and Joe Jones (6 points each) were pacing the Aggies’ scoring attack.

The good news for the Aggies was that they were not the only ones battling foul trouble, as the Cardinals had both Derrick Caracter and Terrance Farely pick up 3 fouls before the break. I also thought the Aggies were doing a pretty good job of handling the relentless ball pressure from Louisville, but they did manage to turn the ball over 8 times in the first half.

You could tell from the first 20 minutes that we were going to be in for a rough-and-tumble second half as the game had all the makings of what would be a classic “March Madness” game.

As the two teams came out for the 2nd half, Acie Law (himself) went on a little 7-1 run to give the Aggies their biggest lead of the day at 35-29.

Rest assured the Cardinals came right back with a 7-0 run of their own to take a 36-35 lead behind the strength of 4 straight Edgar Sosa free-throws (more of this later on).

Tempo then swung back to the Aggies as Acie and Dominique hit back-to-back three pointers to give the Aggies their second 6-point lead of the day at 47-41.

The two teams then traded baskets for a couple of possessions, and the Aggies still held a 5 point lead at the 11:26 mark with the score 52-47.

Louisville then ripped off a very impressive 16-5 run that gave them their third (and final) 6-point lead of the day, and the score was tilted 57-63 in favor of the Cardinals. Terrence Williams and Edgar Sosa also seemed to be hitting their stride, and it looked like the Cardinals were ready to pull away from the Aggies for good when Sosa fed Williams for one of the nastiest ally-oops I have seen in quite some time. I hope it did not hurt Donald Sloan as much as it hurt watching him get dunked on.

The Aggies however were not phased by the big Louisville run and the nasty dunk by Williams. From that point on, the Aggies outscored the Cardinals 15-6 over the final 5:19 of the game, including holding Louisville to only 2 points over the final 3:15.

Edgar Sosa, a career 68% free-throw shooter, was 15-for-15 in the game before he stepped to the line with his team trailing by one point (70-69) and 0:29 left in the game. Sosa promptly missed both attempts, and the Cardinals fouled Joe Jones while attempting to rebound the 2nd miss.

Joe also missed both of his attempts, and Louisville controlled the rebound. Sosa set the offense after Pitino called a timeout, and for some reason he let a three-pointer fly with 0:08 left in the game and his team only trailing by one point. My two questions for Sosa would have been: Why did you shoot a three? Why did you shoot it so soon?

I’m not complaining and do not get me wrong, I just thought his decision was very curious.

Sosa did have this to say regarding the last play, "I thought there was less time than what it was, I didn't know how far I was from the (3-point) line but I definitely could have done something else."

Marlon Pompey, who did a great job staying inbounds, controlled the rebound off the Sosa miss and got the ball to Acie who was promptly fouled by Louisville. Acie then hit two free-throws with 0:02 on the clock to seal the game for the Aggies and secure the 72-69 win.

The most impressive thing down the stretch was that the Aggies went 10-for-12 from the free throw line over the final. The lone misses were both by Joe Jones with 0:29 left. Acie went 6-for-6 and Kirk was 4-for-4 over the final

The Aggies got big-time performances from Acie Law and Dominique Kirk late in the game as Acie scored 17 points in the second half and Dominique added 15.

I simply can not put into words how proud I was of Kirk’s performance in the first two tournament games. Without DK’s 21 points and 6 rebounds on Saturday, the boys in maroon and white would be sitting at home watching Louisville take on Memphis on Thursday night, and we would have all seen Acie’s last game as an Aggie. In two games in Lexington, Dominique scored 37 points, grabbed 9 rebounds and had 4 assists.

Acie, always the “team first” guy had this to say after the win, "It's an amazing feeling. I don't have any words to describe it. It's huge for this program."

Acie, does “huge” even begin to describe it? I do not think so......

The game was one for the ages and was a very tough, hard-fought win for the Aggies in a very hostile environment.

The most exciting thing is that they Aggies will still be playing basketball on March 22nd. How good is that?

Quick Hits

- Dominique Kirk’s 21 points were a career high.

- Edgar Sosa’s career high 31 included 15 free throws, but he was 7-of-9 from the field.

- Big Joe had a solid game adding 12 points and pulling down 8 rebounds.

- The Aggies only had 3 turnovers in the 2nd half against the Louisville pressure.

- Josh Carter only had 3 points on 1-of-2 shooting in 17 minutes of action. The Aggies will need Josh to produce if they are going to win another game or two in March.

- Kavaliauskas also struggled mightily on Saturday in going 1-for-6 from the field. AK finished with 2 points in 26 minutes. Same as above with Josh, this team will need AK to return to form very quickly.

- One of the funniest things I heard on Saturday was when my brother looked at me and said, “You do know that Marlon Pompey won that game for them, right?” I laughed until he pointed out 3 HUGE plays by Pompey. 1.) A drive to the basket that drew the 4th foul on Derrick Caracter. 2.) An offensive rebound by Pompey at the 2:20 mark that reset the shot-clock for the Aggies. 3.) The defensive rebound off the Sosa miss with 0:08 left that led to the Acie free-throws that won the game. Well Chris, you may be on to something here, I am not sure I can disagree with you about my main man Marlon Pompey!

- I also should point out that Lance Reynolds sent me a text right after Louisville went up 69-68 with 1:23 remaining and he said, “They’re going to win…This is the best I have felt all day.” Turns out he was right. My guess was that it was the Coors Light talking, but I guess not.


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