The upset over Clemson caps off historic weekend for Louisville basketball

The U of L basketball programs have a series of banners to mark milestones in program history at the Yum Center in Louisville, Ky. on Feb. 18, 2023.Jf Ul Banners Aj6t6368
The U of L basketball programs have a series of banners to mark milestones in program history at the Yum Center in Louisville, Ky. on Feb. 18, 2023.Jf Ul Banners Aj6t6368 /

Despite a 3-23 overall record for the Louisville basketball team heading into their matchup on Saturday, an audience of 15,157 fans came out to celebrate the historic night for the Cardinals. Former Head Coach Rick Pitino’s 2012-2013 squad, who won the 2013 NCAA National Championship after eclipsing the Michigan Wolverines 82-76 in the championship game was honored with a new banner in the rafters.

Their official championship banner was removed from the rafters after the NCAA ordered the university to vacate their championship after a scandal came to light surrounding former Director of Basketball Operations Andre McGee organizing parties with players and adult sex workers. According to former backbone of the 2013 team, Chane Behanan, the players were unaware that the females who were at the parties were hired to be there.

And he also cleared the narrative surrounding the idea that former Head Coach Rick Pitino was knowledgeable of these happenings, citing Pitino’s repeated stance on respecting women. However, all of these negative narratives were in the back of everyone’s minds this weekend as joy filled the air of the KFC Yum! Center.

Former members of the 2013 team who were present included forward Montrezl Harrell, forward Stephan Van Treese, guard Peyton Siva, forward Luke Hancock, forward Wayne Blackshear, guard Tim Henderson, guard Mike Marra, and guard Russ Smith who appeared through a video call.

On a night of this magnitude, it would be difficult to imagine the Cardinals losing. But, that is not what happened. Louisville secured their fourth win of the season and their second win in the ACC conference. The 83-73 win for Louisville also enacted revenge on the Clemson Tigers for their loss earlier in the year on January 11, 2023, falling to the Tigers 83-70.

Senior guard El Ellis led the way with 28 points and five rebounds in 39 minutes of play. Two of those points were in the dying seconds of the game with a 360 dunk to send the Tigers back to North Carolina.

Depending on perspective it could be a controversial dunk, but earlier in the week Clemson was up by 38 points on Florida State, and in the dying seconds of the game Clemson guard Dillon Hunter stole the ball from Florida State guard RJ Morris and proceeded to dunk the ball on a fast break to cap off a 40-point blowout win over the Seminoles.

So it could have been a little revenge on their ACC foe who currently sits at number four in the conference. But either way, it proceeded into an incredibly exciting evening for the Louisville basketball program, especially in a season that has been mostly struggles.

You can tell from the players’ perspective that Kenny Payne is changing the culture slowly within the program and most of, if not all of the outside noise criticizing Kenny Payne and the job he has done is from outside of the locker room. His players have his back and do not want to quit fighting for him.

Agree with his methods or not. He is having an impact on his players in a positive way and that is respectable.