BOZICH | Louisville seals win over Kentucky with Snider Family hug
A year after blaming himself for Louisville's loss to Kentucky, Quentin Snider can take credit for the Cards' 73-70 victory over the Wildcats Wednesday night after scoring a career high 22.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — You know what Quentin Snider did after Kentucky beat Louisville in Rupp Arena last Dec. 26?
Parked in his bedroom at his family’s home and rarely left his room.
“For two days,” said Snider’s father, Scott.
“He took that loss harder than the state championship game (at Ballard in 2013). He blamed himself for that loss because he didn’t score.”
Now that you mention it, Snider didn’t do much against Kentucky last season. On a night when U of L lost by two, Snider missed all five of his shots and managed a single assist in unsettling 28 minutes.
I’ve never taken a timeout in the middle of a column, but I must ask for one here. Quentin Snider emerged from the Louisville locker room after the Cardinals’ jarring, 73-70, victory over Kentucky in the KFC Yum! Center Wednesday night. The Cards’ radio network needed him for a Star of the Game interview — after ESPN had asked Snider several post-game questions at center court.
But before Son returned to the floor he was interrupted by Dad. Scott Snider wanted a hug. And a picture.
Wouldn’t every father want both after watching his son score a career best 22 points and make play after poised play to beat the team that every kid who grows up cheering for Louisville daydreams about beating?
“As a kid, growing up watching that rivalry game, it’s pretty big,” Quentin Snider said.
'‘To grow up in this city and have a game like that and help your team win?” Scott Snider said. “That’s huge for him. That’s the type of game he’s worked for his whole life, to play in a game like this.”
There is so much to remember, including a few when the 2016 games looked like the 2015 game for Snider. He missed his first two shots. A three. Then another three.
The perimeter game has been a struggle for Snider this season. He’d made only a third of 57 attempts from distance in Louisville’s first 11 games.
But there would be no hesitation this time. Dad and Son talked about that on the telephone Tuesday night.
Dad’s message was clear and consistent: Play with confidence. You’re ready for this moment.
“If you miss a few shots, just stay loose and keep playing,” Scott Snider said.
Dad’s advice was similar to the advice that somebody else had given Snider after last season’s game. The encouragement last Dec. 26 came in a text message from Tyler Ulis, Kentucky’s all-American point guard, the guy who outscored Snider, 21-0, the Wildcats’ victory.
Ulis and Snider became friends in AAU basketball when they were fourth graders. Ulis told Snider to play a more aggressive game.
Snider did. He grew into a solid fourth scoring option as Louisville won a dozen of 18 Atlantic Coast Conference games.
This season Rick Pitino needed Snider to become more than a fourth option. He needed him to be a first or second option, the guy who ran his team.
Against Kentucky, Snider did that. A guy who played as if he was convinced that every shot was going in and that every pass was going to lead to a Louisville basket. A guy who did not surrender a millimeter on defense, even though Kentucky’s two freshmen guards, Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox, were taller, longer and quicker.
“Quentin played a big-time game,” Pitino said. “He kept attacking the rim, attacking the rim.”
Snider’s first basket came from 17 feet. He drove the lane to cut Kentucky’s lead to 17-14. Twice Snider turned it over. Play on.
“Really it was just believing in myself and just having confidence,” Quentin Snider said. “That's what I tried to do.”
He finished the first half with nine more points, converting a three-pointer. The Wildcats led, 40-39. But Louisville was taking better shots than Kentucky.
Snider’s next three came about four minutes into the second half and the arena tilted toward the Ohio River as he bumped Louisville ahead, 47-43. Ending Kentucky’s four-game winning streak in this season not only seemed possible, it seemed likely.
“Nice plays,” Scott Snider said. “But you still have to finish the game.”
Quentin Snider finished the game. Ask Bam Adebayo, Kentucky’s massive center. Switched into guarding Snider on a high screen, Adebayo watched as Snider flashed forward, hesitated, retreated and then surged to the rim.
Fearless play. Veteran play. A play Snider did not make last season.
“Really, I was just trying to dance on him,” Quentin Snider. “Just try to move his feet. Once I saw him fall, I just went straight ahead.”
Snider got straight to the rim. He also got a layup. Louisville got a 69-63 lead with 1:44 to play.
“He was a beast,” said U of L forward Jaylen Johnson. “That’s all I can say. I can’t say nothing else. I was thinking that was ‘SportsCenter.’ “
A rebound basket by Johnson followed by two free throws from Donovan Mitchell secured the victory, which did not become official until Monk’s last-second short was short.
Snider celebrated with all of his teammates until he was dragged out of the group because Maria Taylor of ESPN wanted to ask him about playing his best when Louisville needed his absolute best — 22 points, six rebounds, five assist and two steals.
“Christmas is going to be more fun this year,” Scott Snider said. “This is a game we’ll remember for a long time.”
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