The Orange of Syracuse had the only remaining undefeated road record, an impressive 11-0, heading into their final regular season game of the 2009-2010 basketball season. More importantly, this was the final game in Freedom Hall which is the home court of the struggling Louisville Cardinals.
The Syracuse Orange and thousands of Louisville fans left Freedom Hall for the last time in the arena’s standing. The only difference, Louisville gave the arena its final win and Syracuse left with its first road loss of the year.
Rick Pitino and his squad were on the verge of missing the NCAA tournament in which they were among the last four remaining only a season ago. With a win over Syracuse on Saturday, the Cardinals won’t have to worry about their tournament hopes any longer. Improving to 20-11 on the season and improving to a much needed 11-7 in the Big East Conference, the Cardinals can finally breathe again heading into their conference finale. Syracuse on the other hand, being ranked number one for the first time since 1990, went home upset.
In the final game in Freedom Hall, an unlikely superstar rose to the occasion to make sure this game will be remembered for an eternity. Kyle Kuric, a sophomore shooting guard who averages 3.6 points per game, was living proof of why Freedom Hall is a memorable place. Scoring zero points in the first half, Kuric played in replace of an injured Jerry Smith.
Let’s just say he picked it up a tad in the second half.
All 22 points came during the final 20 minutes of the Freedom Hall finale which included an outstanding 67% from beyond the arc. He even showed some versatility by energizing the crowd with several ally-oops to preserve a 10-point lead coming down the stretch. Mix in three rebounds and two assists and I’d say this kid had himself a game.
So what does someone with a larger-than-life game say during a post game interview? Well, I’m sure he would love to say a lot of things, but this humbled player kept his personal accolades to himself as he discussed the importance of such a big game for his team this late in the season.
I think the words we are all looking for are ‘true’, ‘team’ and ‘player’.
Edgar Sosa, Samardo Samuels and Rick Pitino all would agree with that last statement now that their team has momentum heading into the nation’s best conference’s tournament next week. The Cardinals already locked up a sixth seed giving them a direct flight to the second round awaiting the winner of Rutgers and Cincinnati.
Although Monday won’t bring the best news for the former number one Orangemen, the Big East still feels they are the best granting Jim Boeheim’s team a number one seed in the conference. Good for them because this is a sure-fire way for this team to get back on the bus and ride it all the way to Indianopolis.
When everything is said and done, Freedom Hall was closed out with a bang. Kyle Kuric could argue that it was the greatest basketball game ever played in the arena, but he’ll have some competition on that one. If nothing else was learned from this match-up Saturday afternoon, I’ll let you know what I learned:
Come March, no team is safe.