The story after No. 18 Louisville’s 76-64 win over UConn on Saturday night was that Kevin Ollie was ejected in impressive fashion.
He went out in a blaze of glory, sprinting down the sideline, getting rung up by official Mike Stuart twice and slowly stalking and staring the refs down as he was escorted off the floor by assistant Kevin Freeman and a police officer.
If you’re going to get tossed from a game, it might as well me in memorable fashion.
And while the topic of discussion afterwards centered on Ollie’s Jim Calhoun-esque tantrum, the importance of this game stretched far beyond a simple ejection.
Louisville finally has a quality win.
Entering Saturday, the most impressive thing that the Cardinals had done this season was beat SMU. Or Houston. Or win at Rutgers. Or Central Florida. Or … you get my point, right? Rick Pitino’s club, for all of its ‘reigning national champs’ glory, had lost the three biggest games they had played this season. One of those losses, to Memphis, came at the Yum! Center.
I’m not saying winning at UConn is an elite win, either. The Huskies are going to be up and down all season long. That’s the nature of the beast when you rely on Deandre Daniels and Ryan Boatright as secondary scorers. When those two are playing well and Shabazz Napier doesn’t have to do everything himself, UConn can beat anyone.
On Saturday, Louisville shut those two down. Daniels finished 1-for-9 from the floor. Boatright was 4-for-14. It wasn’t pretty, but it was at least partially caused by Louisville.
Here’s the most important thing to remember from this win: the Cardinals did this on their own. They went into UConn’s raucous arena — Gampel Pavilion, which is in Storrs and much tougher for opponents that the XL Center — and beat the Huskies. They were spurred on by a poor moment of officiating, but even if the stripes call a foul on Wayne Blackshear and Kevin Ollie doesn’t get tossed, UConn still probably doesn’t win that game.
The difference was already nine points by then. The Cardinals had made their run.
They had done what they needed to do to get themselves their best win of the season.