According to many, the fourth-seeded Louisville Cardinals shouldn’t be playing in the Elite 8. They didn’t have enough depth nor could they shoot the ball well enough to go far in the tournament. They made to the Elite 8, but were upended by the seventh-seeded Michigan State Spartans in overtime 76 – 70. The Cardinals jumped out to a 40 – 32 halftime lead with the help of 53.1 percent shooting. Louisville made 17 of its 32 shots in the first half, but made just 6 of its final 32 shots in the second half and overtime.
Michigan State’s staple has always been their hardcore in-your-face defense. That wasn’t the case in the first half and one can only imagine what was said in the locker room at halftime. Whatever it was, it worked. Louisville made only two outside shots during the second half and overtime. With 5 seconds left in the game Louisville had a chance to go up by one when Mangok Mathiang grabbed and offensive rebound and was fouled. His put back attempt rolled off the rim, barely missing which would have put the Cardinals up by one. Mathiang went to the line and made the first as itbounced high up above the backboard and then dropped through the net. His second one was too hard and the Cardinals were forced to try and win the game in overtime. Sophomore guard Terry Rozier had the most difficult time finding his shot. Rozier finished with a solid all-around game, but made only six of his 23 attempts. He finished with 13 points, 8 rebounds, 4 steals, and 3 assists in what would turn out to be his last game in a Cardinal uniform. Two other Louisville players would play their last game for the Cardinals. Wayne Blackshear and Montrezl Harrell gave everything they had in this game, but it wasn’t enough.
Blackshear played one of his best games of his four year career at U of L. He played with the mentality that this could indeed be his last game. Blackshear finished with 28 points and three rebounds. He made 6 of his 13 shots from the field including 4 of 6 from the three point line. He also made all 12 of his free throw attempts. Blackshear was asked how he was feeling after the game and responded just as classy as he always has saying, “I get to look back and say I had a great career. I played with a lot of great players in my four years here. I won a National Championship, went to a Final Four. There’s nothing else I can say.” Harrell finished with 16 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists. However, most of his scoring was in the first half. He scored 12 of his 16 points in the first half and missed all 6 of his field goal attempts in the second half.
Harrell was also asked how he was feeling and responded with the emotion we have come to expect out him, “It just hurts a lot. We all had one goal coming into this tournament, and when you lose an overtime game the way we lost it, when we’re one possession away from winning, it’s pretty tough. It just hurts. Looking around the locker room, just seeing the guys down. We’ve been up so many times in the game. Our season is over. Just got to go on.” Louisville finished their season with a 27 – 9 record. Michigan State moves on to the Final Four in Indianapolis to face the Duke Blue Devils.