Remembering the Louisville Cardinals 1980 National Championship run

The Tony Branch shot and the LSU game

Mar 24, 1980; Indianapolis, IN, USA; FILE PHOTO; Louisville Cardinals players Poncho Wright (44) and
Mar 24, 1980; Indianapolis, IN, USA; FILE PHOTO; Louisville Cardinals players Poncho Wright (44) and / Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
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1. The Tony Branch Shot

Louisville 71- Kansas State 69

Rolando Blackman grabs a rebound and ties the game in regulation. Darrell Griffith fouled out in overtime. Branch bracketed by two defenders drops in a 15-foot shoot with time expiring to save Louisville. It was a front-rim kiss, off the backboard and in! It is still as amazing as it was that day.

2. The LSU Game

Louisville 86-LSU 66 

Rudy Macklin versus Darrell Griffith, friends in real life. I remember Macklin getting a bit more press than Griffith. Louisville was the underdog. It was a game of runs and foul problems, especially for LSU and Griffith who played only 18 minutes. Jordy Hultberg was a long-range threat off the bench for LSU.  The play of the game. A block by Poncho Wright, an outlet pass to Griffith (Al McGuire, “ we go…here we go”). Around the world dunk! On the next timeout, the entire bench looked at the replay on the big screen. Louisville prevailed in the end.

It was an epic season. Louisville lost zero home games during this season. The lone losses were neutral site games to Iona and Illinois and an away game to Utah. Their tallest player was 6’8’. They lost Bobby Turner to academic ineligibility and Scooter McCray to a knee injury. Darrell Griffith, Derek Smith, Wiley Brown, and Rodney McCray carried this team.  

I remember the mass of humanity on campus after the win. I remember 20,000 in Freedom Hall to wave the Cards home. I remember Kenny Loggin’s “This is It”.  Coach Crum put it best in a quote captured by the Courier Journal’s John Filiatreau, “At least for this year, and maybe forever more, we are the university of Kentucky.” Crum also said it was “a dream come true.” -via Billy Reed, Courier Journal.

I’ll never forget the games I saw in person as part of the basketball pep band, the euphoria and excitement. I am looking forward to more in the future.