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March 24, 2012
Louisville senior captain Kyle Kuric is one of the quietest players Rick Pitino has ever coached. And on a team with personalities like Peyton Siva, Russ Smith, Chane Behanan and Chris Smith, Kuric's quiet voice sounds is even softer. But it was Silent Kyle that spoke up to lead Louisville's 72-68 comeback win over Florida.
Down 11 points with time draining off the clock quickly in his college career, Kuric stepped into the huddle and spoke up.
"I was shocked, really, because Kyle doesn't talk like that," Behanan said. "But he told us that we all need to step up because they won't give it to us."
You couldn't blame teammates for being surprised. Kuric is chided by his coach because he never spoke, even when he should be calling out defensive switches in practices and games. "He doesn't say boo to anyone," Rick Pitino was fond of saying.
Even after winning Homecoming King as a junior, Kuric was still quiet and fairly reserved, speaking when necessary, but choosing to watch his wilder teammates' antics rather than create some of his own.
But he spoke up when it counted. After the game, with a Final Four hat sitting backwards on his head, Kuric said he felt like he had to say something.
"We were down by 11, Peyton was in foul trouble, I was in foul trouble and Coach P. just got a technical," Kuric said. "I said everything was against us, and we are going to have to go take it."
He was right. And that is what Louisville did. The Cardinals came back from down 11 to win by four in one of the most dramatic comebacks of the season for a Louisville team that has had quite a few of them.
But it wasn't that simple. It wasn't just Kuric finally stepping into the spotlight in the timeout. It was Pitino making several masterful adjustments on defense - not the least of which was switching his team's defense from zone to man - and it was Louisville overcoming the loss of Siva to his fifth foul with just under four minutes left.
The Cardinals' comeback sends Pitino to the Final Four for the sixth time and pushes his record against Donovan to a shocking 7-0 all time. And it means Louisville is back in the Final Four after six seasons including a pair of close calls in 2008 and 2009.
And for Kuric, a player who agreed to go off scholarship during his senior season to accommodate scholarship numbers, is going to the Final Four. He spoke up. He demanded his teammates to join him. And it worked.