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by Chris Maynard (email@example.com)
Prior to his team's 1997 Elite Eight game against favored North Carolina, legendary Louisville head coach Denny Crum flew in a neuroscientist from campus to help some of his players,
Apparently, Crum had had this neuroscientist work with both players prior to the Sweet Sixteen, and decided to return to the well again after Sims scored a career-high 25 points and Dantzler added 17 points during a Sweet Sixteen victory against Texas.
While Crum had his players visualizing an upset, his Cardinals would be eliminated on this Sunday at the Carrier Dome due to two crucial runs in the later stages of both halves.
When I think back to this game, I visualize a blowout, as the final score of 97-74 seem to indicate.
But numbers can be deceiving, and this proved to be the case.
The Cardinals hung tough with the Tar Heels for stretches, leading 15-10 early in the first half and then trailing 18-15 at the under-12 timeout. However, Carolina turned it on the rest of the first half, employing an active 2-3 zone that would contribute to 9 first half steals and beating Louisville up and down the court for what basically amounted to a layup show.
Sparked by Vince Carter, Shammond Williams and Ed Cota, Carolina finished the half on a 44 to 18 run to lead by 22 points at the break.
Ballgame over, at least from what I remember. That was not the case as the Cardinals came out fighting in the second half. Louisville would amazingly cut this game t0 69-66 on a B.J. Flynn three @1:02:37 (with under 10-minutes to go in the game).
Unfortunately, the Cardinals would go cold, and Carolina would go on yet another crippling run, finishing the game on a 28-8 run.
In the end, Louisville would show a lot of heart in the second half, but Carolina was too explosive.
When I visualize a North Carolina-Louisville Elite Eight game, this 1997 contest does not first come to mind. In fact, I tend to think of a classic Elite Eight game from 2008 when Carolina outlasted a game Cardinals squad.
With that said, this 1997 Elite Eight game proved to be a much more competitive game than I remembered and a more appealing review than I anticipated.
Carolina fans should watch from @19:00 to @40:56 of the first half to see how devastating this Tar Heels team was when getting on a roll, and confirm this knowledge by watching from @1:02:45 to the end to see how Dean Smith's squad could turn it on when needed.
As for Louisville, the start of the second half, from @41:42 to @1:02:40 is a must view, as it showed a team that could have easily thrown in the towel in the second half but rather went out with all it had.
Here are some quick tidbits that I found interesting while watching this game:
- Denny Crum was 6-0 in regional finals entering this game, which would be his last Elite Eight.
- Dean Smith was 10-4 in regional finals entering this game, which would be his last coaching win.
- Smith was 4-1 in his career against Crum prior to this game. He would win the sixth and final meeting between the two.
- Louisville was 8-1 on the year against top-25 teams.
- North Carolina had not lost in nearly two months, since January 11th, despite playing up and down in the NCAA Tournament.
- Carolina took control of this game in the first half, holding a 35-11 edge in back-court scoring as Louisville senior DeJuan Wheat was severely limited by an ankle injury.
- The Tar Heels also had a 20-8 advantage on the boards.
- All 6 of Carolina's rotation players scored in double digits, with Williams going for 22 and winning the region's MOP award.
- Alex Sanders led the Cardinals with 20 points. Wheat scored just 6 points in his final college game.
- Louisville got inspirational play from Sanders, Flynn, Dantzler and freshman Tony Williams in the second half, putting up a spirited fight before going cold in the game's final seven to eight minutes.
- As I have indicated in recent posts, this game took place as my family celebrated by father's 40th birthday.
Here's the game below (a much better contest than the score shows) and the 2008 Elite Eight classic between these two March powerhouses.