The first big day of the NCAA tournament didn’t disappoint. There were several games that came down to last-second shots and, like always, there were a few upsets, but none was bigger than when Morehead State defeated Rick Pitino and the Louisville Cardinals. What is deemed as the biggest win in the history of the Eagles’ program started the night before when Coach Donnie Tyndall found himself awake in bed preparing for every type of situation imaginable that could happen during the course of a game. As fate would have it, Tyndall thought of the exact same situation in which he would give the ball to their senior guard, Demonte Harper, down two points with the last possession. Instead of going for the tie and having a chance to lose the game in overtime, Tyndall decided to roll the dice on a three-point shot and Harper drained it. The Eagles have won all year with heart and a series of comebacks, and upsetting an in-state opponent was no different. Up next for Morehead State, another team that scored a first day upset, the Richmond Spiders.
Donnie Tyndall joined WFAN in New York with Mike Francesa to talk about what it means for the school to beat an in-state opponent like Louisville, what he told his team when he took their last timeout down by two points, and what he told his team after the game.
What it means for the school to beat an in-state opponent like Louisville:
“Obviously this would have to be the biggest win in the history of the program. I have the utmost respect for Coach Pitino and the Louisville team and all that they have accomplished. They have a really good team. Really it just came down to both teams are very tough, both teams are very, very competitive, and we were fortunate to make one more play than they did, Mike.”
What was going through his mind when Louisville started to pull away in the second half:
“Well you know I just wanted our team to have poise and composure. We play very similar styles of basketball so both teams are going to make spurts and have runs throughout the course of the game and they made their run to start the half when they went up eight. We made our run to go up by about five with four or five minutes to play, and that is just the nature of how we play with press and up-tempo style trying to force turnovers and then really the last four minutes was two heavyweights slugging it out and the thing about our team is we have two seniors that are very, very talented that have been in these types of games before, Kenneth Faried and Demonte Harper, and obviously other guys played very, very well, but Kenneth throughout the game and then Demonte makes the big shot late. When you have seniors obviously that pays dividends.”
What he told his team when he took their last timeout down by two points:
“Yes, absolutely. In fact, I don’t want to sound like a fortune teller here Mike but I woke up this morning at about 2:30, could not get back to sleep so I just got up and making notes and doing some things with my play chart and I was thinking, ‘Ok if we are up one or two and it is our ball late. What do we want to run? Who do we want to give it to? If they are in zone, what will we go with? If they are in man, what will we go with?’ Bottom line, I just told myself at that time, ‘Look, if the game is one or two points we are going to go for a three.’ I am going to put it in Harper’s hand and flatten the floor and let him make a play. He is an all-league guard and one of the best guards in the country really. He is not in that elite class with Nolan Smith and those guys but he is a guy that is going to get into some NBA camps and I told him during the timeout, I called timeout and said, ‘Look, I thought about this all night long, here is what we are going to do. We are going to flatten the floor, at seven seconds we are going to take a flat ball screen with Goodman, Demonte just hard stutter and you pull up to win the game for us’ and he said, ‘I got you coach’ and I am not making that up in any way. That is exactly what we told him and fortunately that kid is a very, very tough kid that made a huge shot.”
What he told his team after the game:
“Well we are not done. I said, ‘I am proud of you, I love you, we are excited, we are happy, we are going to get a good meal and get some rest but we are not finished.’ We have a great deal of respect for both Vanderbilt and Richmond but we will certainly go into that game Saturday feeling the same way we did today.”