Feb 22, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Louisville Cardinals guard/forward Wayne Blackshear and guard Terry Rozier block the shot of the Cincinnati Bearcats forward Titus Rubles in the first half at FifthThird Arena.
CINCINNATI (AP) — Russ Smith’s 18-foot jumper with 2.2 seconds left gave No. 11 Louisville a 58-57 victory win over No. 7 Cincinnati on Saturday, the Cardinals’ sixth straight win and 10th in 11 games.
Louisville (23-4, 12-2 American Athletic Conference) started the winning streak after a last-second 69-66 home loss to the Bearcats (24-4, 13-2) three weeks ago.
Cincinnati fought back from a 10-point second-half deficit to take a 55-52 lead with 90 seconds remaining in the game. Freshman Troy Caupain made two free throws with 12 seconds left to give the Bearcats a 57-56 lead.
Terry Rozier passed the ball to Smith, catching the notoriously stingy Cincinnati defense off guard and he made the jumper. The Cardinals tipped the inbounds pass, giving Cincinnati no opportunity to get off a shot before the buzzer sounded.
Montrezl Harrell, who was just 5 of 12 from the free throw line, led the Cardinals with 21 points, Rozier had 11 and Smith finished with 10 on 3-of-10 shooting.
Sean Kilpatrick had 28 points for the Bearcats, who had won 19 straight at home.
Feeding off of the intensity of a sellout crowd at Fifth Third Arena, the game started fast-paced and physical in a matchup of two of the nation’s best defenses. Louisville held Cincinnati to 6-of-31 shooting and the Bearcats limited Louisville to 8-of-30 shooting from the field in the first half.
Louisville had held seven of its last 10 opponents to under 40 percent shooting from the field, and continued that trend Saturday. Unlike in the teams’ first matchup in January, when Cincinnati shot 48.9 percent, the Bearcats started 3 of 27 from the field. Louisville swarmed the Bearcats, intercepting passes, swatting away shots and forcing Cincinnati to rush its offense.
Cincinnati missed 13 straight field goal attempts over an 8:25 scoring drought as the Cardinals built a 21-9 lead. Louisville found success by driving inside, outscoring the Bearcats 14-2 in the paint before halftime.
But down 12 points with 4:41 left in the half, the Bearcats outscored Louisville 8-1 the rest of the way before halftime, capping the half with a jumper by Caupain to make it 22-19. On the Bearcats’ first possession of the second half, Ge’Lawn Guyn hit a 3-pointer to tie the game.
The Bearcats, fourth in the nation in scoring defense (57.4 points per game), held Louisville to just 22 first-half points. The output was the Cardinals’ second-lowest in a half this season, slightly higher than the 20 points they had in the first half of the teams’ first meeting on Jan. 30.
Louisville found its touch in the second half, shooting 14 of 25 from the field and again building a 10-point lead.
Cincinnati’s shooting woes — with the exception of Kilpatrick — continued. Kilpatrick made 15 straight Cincinnati field goals in the second half, taking more than three times the number of field goal attempts (26) as any of his teammates.
But Kilpatrick’s scoring was all Cincinnati needed. The Bearcats went ahead 52-51 on a free throw by Kilpatrick with 2:20 left.
Louisville’s Luke Hancock finished with two points, fouling out with 1:40 left and his team down 52-51. Mangok Mathiang fouled out with 2:20 left and finished with four points.
Kilpatrick entered the game needing 10 points to reach 2,000 for his career. Early in the second half, he reached the milestone on a drive to the basket, joining Oscar Robertson as the only players in school history to score over 2,000 points.