The University of Louisville rallied from an 18-point deficit in the final 5 minutes, 32 seconds to beat Marquette 71-70 on Kyle Kuric's layup with four seconds left Saturday afternoon at the KFC Yum! Center.
"Well I think if you live long enough you see it all," UofL coach Rick Pitino said. "This is one of the top five comebacks for us in a long time."
The 18th-ranked Cardinals trailed 65-47 before rallying behind Preston Knowles. The senior guard scored 15 points in a game-ending 24-5 run.
"Preston took over and we all just kind of followed his lead," junior guard Chris Smith said. However his biggest play was the assist to Kuric for the winning basket.
"What we were trying to do was to get Kyle to pop back, because they were going to go over to Preston," Pitino said. "Kyle had the intelligence, when they both went after (Knowles), to go backdoor to the basket."
"I thought he was going to shoot it," Kuric admitted afterward. "I rolled to the basket to get the rebound and he found me at the last second."
Marquette's Jimmy Butler missed an off-balance jumper at the buzzer as Louisville (14-3, 3-1) bounced back from its 88-74 loss at Villanova with big Big East victory.
"It was a team that out-played us for 34 minutes of the ball game," Pitino said. "Stephan Van Treese and Chris Smith, during timeouts, could not breathe, they had not air left. I said, ‘What do you think they feel like?'
Van Treese and Kuric tallied 10 points apiece, while Jennings scored seven points and grabbed eight rebounds off the bench.
"This is by far the best comeback I've ever been a part of," said Jennings, who went 4-for-4 from the free throw line in the final 49.8 seconds. "This is a great feeling."
The feeling was anything but great late, though. It seemed like everything that could go wrong for the Cards did.
After a Knowles pass bounced off Jennings' leg and out of bounds Pitino called a 30-second timeout with his team trailing 63-45 and less than seven minutes to play.
Some fans (there were 21,485 in attendance at the KFC Yum! Center) headed to the exits.
"It's hard to blame them. I was thinking, 'Not this again,'" Kuric said, referring to UofL's loss at Villanova on Wednesday.
Instead it ended like many of the prior meetings in this series, in which 15 of the previous 27 games had been decided by five points or less, or in overtime.
Van Treese's steal and dunk with 6:28 to play gave a hint of what was to come. Darius Johnson-Odom answered with two free throws to put the Warriors (12-6, 3-2) back up by 18, at 65-47.
"At the free throw line I told PK, ‘We've got to chop it down little by little,'" Chris Smith said.
The Cards did.
They scored 15 straight points. Van Treese hit a layup. Knowles hit a three. Van Treese hit another layup. Knowles hit another three. Smith hit a layup, then Knowles hit another three to make it 65-62 with 1:55 remaining.
Marquette's Jae Crowder scored inside with 1:38 to play to make it a five-point game before Knowles knocked down another three to pull UofL within two, at 67-65.
Dwight Buycks scored for the Warriors to push their lead back to four, but Jennings hit two free throws on UofL's next possession. Sophomore Junior Cadougan hit 1 of 2 free throws on Marquette's next trip down to make it 70-67.
Those were the Warriors' last points.
Kuric missed a three-point on the Cards' next possession, but Jennings was fouled on the rebound and hit two more foul shots. Then on the other end the big man, who has struggled mightily of late, contested a shot by Buycks and Knowles rebounded. Pitino called timeout with 12.2 seconds left.
With time running down Knowles got the ball from Kuric near the top of the key and drove to his right. As he pulled up, and with three Warriors coming at him, Knowles dropped the ball off to Kuric underneath for a layup.
"They were concentrating on me because I hit so many shots in a row, so I made them pay," Knowles said.
Buycks took the in-bounds pass and drove down the right side of the court. Kuric knocked the ball away from him briefly, but Buycks recovered it. However his last second shot attempt was off to the right.
"At one point I could just feel everybody getting tired and it looked like people wanted to quit, but Coach kept saying, ‘We're going to win this game,'" Knowles said. "Being down that much and coming back it just goes to show, never give up."
UofL shot 45.6 percent (26 of 57) from the field, including 51.7 percent (15 for 29) in the second half. Meanwhile Marquette shot 33.9 percent (19 for 56) from the field, including 32.3 percent (10 of 31) after halftime.
"I thought we played great for most of the game," said Warriors coach Buzz Williams, who got 16 points from Johnson-Odom. "I thought we played well in the first half, they had eight points in transition and that's what they do best...I thought we played the first 12 minutes of the second half really well. We did not finish the game with poise, did not play with the same sort of mentality that we had played with up until that point. That is my fault more than it is anybody else's. I didn't manage the game at the end, and they did an unbelievable job of making shots, making hard shots. Their pressure bothered us towards the end more than it did throughout the game."
UofL missed its first four shots before Smith's layup at 17:41 tied the game at 2. The Cards hit five of their next six shots - the last two were three-pointers by Kuric - to take a 14-10 lead.
Marquette missed 12 of its first 15 shots, but stayed in the game thanks to free throw shooting and fouls called on Louisville. All four of Louisville's big men - Gorgui Dieng, Van Treese, George Goode and Jennings - had two fouls apiece halfway through the first half.
The Warriors took an 18-17 lead on two free throws by Cadougan at the 9:35 mark, but Louisville stayed close.
Two free throws by Peyton Siva gave UofL a 24-22 lead with 5:18 remaining in the half before Marquette responded with a 10-2 run on its way to a 36-31 lead at halftime.
The Warriors shot just 36 percent (9-for-25) in the first half, but made 15 of 19 free throws (78.9 percent). Meanwhile the Cards shot 39.3 percent (11 for 28) from the field, including only 2 of 9 (22.2 percent) from three-point range, and made only 7 of 13 free throws (53.8 percent). Knowles, who came in averaging 15.5 points per game, had only two points on 1-for-4 shooting in 17 minutes while Dieng and Goode both had three fouls.
The Warriors pushed their lead to 11 (46-35) early in the second half on Butler's conventional three-point play, which came via Van Treese's fourth foul. Marquette's lead continued to grow from there before UofL's big comeback.
"This would've killed us if we would've lost," Knowles said. "But we didn't."
UofL next hosts St. John's, Pitino's preseason pick to win the conference, at 7 p.m. Wednesday night.
"This is going to boost our confidence a lot now," Jennings said.