Louisville vs. Memphis PREVIEW: Rivalry Heads to Home of Blues

It’s Memphis week.  Memphis and Louisville have played each other on the hardwood 86 times since 1949.  Louisville leads the series 52-34, and the two schools didn’t meet until last year since the 2005 Conference USA Championship. The 2005 match-up would be the Cardinals last game in C-USA, and it was an epic battle where the Cards would win a 1-point thriller.  A little back story:

The John Calipari coached squad was led by a dynamic point guard, and chest bumper, Darius Washington.  Washington has bounced around Europe, after playing in the D-League for awhile, and also spent some time with the Spurs after not being drafted in the ’06 Draft. Washington of Winter Park, Florida also was granted citizenship in Macedonia, and joined the Macedonian National Team.  Darius Washington was fouled with no time on the clock on a 3-pointer by Francisco Garcia, with the Cards up by two.  Here is what happened:

Generally speaking, I would really feel bad for a freshman being at the line with no time on the clock, and missing 2 out of 3 and causing his team to miss the NCAA Tournament.  But this was Memphis, and Washington pumped his chest about a million times seemingly after every successful dribble.  Also, John Calipari did just about everything possible to re-energize a rivalry that was for all intents and purposes a rivalry that was mostly remembered in black and white stock photographs.

John Calipari arrived at Memphis for the 2000-01 season, and in his second season Calipari, Milt Wagner, Worldwide Wes converged for the first recruiting splash that would rock the Cardinal fanbase.  When Dajuan Wagner was in the 8th grade he had Louisville fans salivating over the potential to have Cardinal Favorite Milt Wagner’s son relive the magic and re-open the ‘Camden Connection’ to Louisville.  Instead, Milt Wagner was hired as an assistant to Calipari’s Memphis staff and Dajuan’s high school teammate Arthur Barclay was signed a a scholarship, and the following year Dajuan Wagner was a Memphis Tiger. It was here that Calipari and the Worldwide Wes connection was made.

The Photo Here is of Milt Wagner hitting game winning free throws in Freedom Hall in 1986 over Memphis.  There was no 3-point shot in ’86, but the situation was almost exactly the same as Darius Washington would face nearly 19 years later.  Wagner was fouled with almost no time left on the clock, Wagner walked around the floor prior to his Free Throw attempts flashing the ‘V’ for Victory sign to the crowd.  Milt would hit both free throws and Memphis would miss a last second heave and Wagner would go on to become a fan favorite, and earned his nickname, “Ice Man”.   That end of season crowd in Freedom Hall was so electric a man actually had a heart attack in the stands.  Earlier in 1983, Wagner would hit a 16-footer in the final second that would seal the game at 64-62 in overtime over the #17 Memphis State Tigers in Freedom Hall.

But the rivarly goes back even further than 1983.  In, 1971 during the Missouri Valley Conference Memphis’ Fred Horton was so angry with Louisville’s Al Vilcheck after Vilcheck had punched him during a fight during the first half, that Horton grabbed a chair off the bench and began swinging it wildly in his direction.  In an interview with Horton 40 years later with the Memphis Commercial Appeal Horton said, “Both teams always played each other hard. We didn’t want to lose. If I had to do it all over again, I probably would do the same thing. It’s a good rivalry. Two good schools, and I’m glad they’ve picked up the baton to continue it.”  Horton was handcuffed and removed from Freedom Hall.

The rivalry probably has it’s best (term used loosely) memories from the 1970s & 1980s.  The rivalry was already boiling, but reached peak temperature during the 1979-80 season when Dana Kirk (a former Denny Crum assistant) became the head coach of the Memphis State Tigers and made it his goal to torment his former boss.  In 1980 the Cards played the Tigers 3 times during their first championship season, and while UofL did win all 3 matchups the vitriol was evident especially in the first game in Memphis where the Tigers were pegged with 4 technical fouls and also had to dodge projectiles in the stands.  Throwing paper cups, popcorn boxes, balled up paper, and coins toward Roger Burkman after Burkman fouled Memphis’ Jeff Battle a little harder than the Memphis fans may have liked.  Darrell Griffith & Tony Branch routinely tell of Memphis fans throwing baby shoes, batteries, and quarters at the Louisville bench in 1978.  In 1982, there was even a knife that came onto the floor during free throws from Rodney McCray in Memphis (the only video I could find of the incident has been set to private on YouTube: ).

Who could ever forget Memphis’ 24-0 run that started the February 20, 1989 contest. Cards ended up losing by 5.

In 1995 Memphis ended Louisville’s season with a POUNDING from the Tigers as the Lorenzen Wright led squad dispatched the Samaki Walker led Cardinals from the NCAA Tournament’s first round 77-56.

The rivalry isn’t limited to just basketball.  In 1969 Louisville was getting whipped so thoroughly by Memphis State that Cardinal Head Coach Lee Corso actually went onto the field and waved the ‘white flag of surrender’ towards Tiger Head Coach and Athletic Director Billy ‘Spook’ Murphy during a 69-19 whipping.  The next season in 1970 Corso would lead his team to an 8-3 season and would exact revenge in a 40-27 victory while on the way to a Pasadena Bowl berth.  And then later on there was this:

Louisville and Memphis have met on the gridiron 42 times, and Louisville holds a 23-19 series advantage.  The Cards and Tigers met last season in PJCS where UofL routed Memphis 56-0.

Last Year

The Cards extended their winning streak to 10-0 and kept their #4 ranking intact after beating the Memphis Tigers. But it wasn’t easy. Russ Smith was absolutely OUTSTANDING and earned a career high in points (at the time) of 24 and added 7 steals. Gorgui Dieng had 14 points & 14 boards, but Memphis’ Will Barton was absolutely magnificent posting 28 points & 16 rebounds.  Memphis made several runs at the Cards and actually came back from down 13 points and took a 58-55 lead.

The game was rough and tightly officiated. There were 54 fouls in the game including  29 fouls and 43 foul shots between the two teams in the first half.  Louisville finished 32-40 from the line, while Memphis finished 29-43 from the charity stripe. A regulation game should not last 2 ½ hours, but this game was just 7 days following the Xavier/Cincinnati brawl and officials were a little touchy in rivalry games shortly following that incident. The key sequence came with the game tied at 70 with 6:26 remaining when the Cards rattled off 8 unanswered points over the next two minutes of action. Chane Behanan hit two free throws (rare I know), Rakeem Buckles got a layup from Siva, Gorgui hit a jumper and Kuric flushed a dunk from Russ.

Memphis really played well enough to win on most nights, but the Cards just capitalized when they needed to including 24 points off turnovers.

Highlights from the 2011 match-up from VillenHD

This Year

Josh Pastner’s Memphis squad is currently 6-2 with losses to Virginia Commonwealth and Minnesota. The Tigers’ best win to date is against the Northern Iowa Panthers 52-47 in the Bahamas, a team the Cardinals also beat by 5 in the Battle for Atlantis 51-46. Memphis really uses a 9-man rotation, and Louisville and Memphis match-up quite well.

Joe Jackson 6-1, 171 lbs. vs. Peyton Siva 6-0, 185 lbs.
Antonio Barton 6-2 178 lbs. vs. Russ Smith 6-0, 165 lbs.
Chris Crawford 6-4, 218 lbs. vs. Wayne Blackshear 6-5, 230 lbs.
Adonis Thomas 6-7, 240 lbs. vs. Chane Behannan 6-6, 250 lbs.
Tarik Black 6-9, 262 lbs. vs. Stephan Van Treese 6-9, 245 lbs.
Geron Johnson 6-3, 197 lbs. vs. Kevin Ware 6-2, 175 lbs.
DJ Stephens 6-5, 188 lbs. vs. Luke Hancock 6-6, 200 lbs.
Shaq Goodwin 6-9, 246 lbs vs. Montrez Harrell 6-8, 235 lbs.
Stan Simpson 6-10, 236 lbs vs. Zach Price 6-10, 250 lbs.

Louisville Memphis
Strength of Schedule (Pomeroy) 148th 201st
Points Per Game 77.0 (36th) 74.8 (54th)
Avg Scoring Margin +23.9 (6th) +10.1 (50th)
Field Goal % 44.9% (89th) 47.6% (29th)
Rebound Rate 56.5% (17th) 54.5% (32nd)
Blocks Per Game 3.2 (193rd) 4.0 (120th)
Steals Per Game 12.4 (3rd) 9.9 (17th)
Assists Per Game 15.1 (50th) 15.6 (39th)
Turnovers Per Game 12.9 (98th) 14.4 (184th)
Team Fouls Per Game 17.0 (113th) 17.5 (140th)
2-point FG% 51.7% (54th) 52.5% (44th)
3-point FG% 31.4% (222nd) 33.6% (157th)
Free Throw % 68.0% (188th) 72.1% (95th)
Opponent Shooting % 38.2% (34th) 41.8% (146th)
Opponent 2-point FG% 44.5% (99th) 43.6% (74th)
Opponent 3-point FG% 27.5% (34th) 38.7% (306th)
Opponent Block Per Game 3.2 (138th) 2.0 (9th)
Opponent Steals Per Game 5.9 (82nd) 7.8 (247th)

In my opinion this game comes down to whether or not Memphis’ guards can handle Louisville’s pressure and who wins on the glass.  Louisville’s Defense should give them the advantage, but if the Tigers are hitting shots LOOK OUT!  The Cards will be without Gorgui Dieng would factored HUGE for Louisville in the last meeting, but Will Barton has also moved on to the NBA’s Portland Trailblazers. Left from last year’s tight match-up are guards Chris Crawford & Joe Jackson who combined for 34 points on 11 fo 23 shooting, 10 rebounds, 8 assists, 5 steals, & 2 blocks.  Russ & Siva will have their hands full and vice versa.

The Louisville Cardinals will meet the Memphis Tigers at 2:30 Saturday December 15, 2012 in the FedEx Forum.  The Game will be broadcast on Fox Sports Net.

This entry was posted in Basketball, Column, Featured, KYSCO, KYSCO Cardinal Blog, News, Previews, UofL, Video by Mark Blankenbaker. Bookmark the permalink.

About Mark Blankenbaker

Follow me: @UofLSheriff50 Born in Louisville, Male High School Graduate, UofL Business School Graduate, I've seen and done quite a bit and I'm passionate about sports particularly the University of Louisville and its rivalry with Kentucky. I have more friends that are UK fans than I do UofL fans, some say that's because I like to argue, or to be different. When it comes down to it I love my Cards, but I'll give praise and criticism to anyone who is deserving. I'm not typically someone who is going to write a 3-sentence post that everyone one else saw on Twitter just to get fresh content on the site. I try and do informative and thorough articles and sometimes that takes a little longer, Follow us on Twitter @CardsandCatscom and Like Us on Facebook to keep up with the latest from us. We also have a YouTube Channel full of coach & player interviews and highlight films.