Ohio trailed Louisville by nine midway through the second half, but used a 16-2 run to take a 49-43 with 3:55 left. That's when Louisville took control. Kyle Kuric hit a pair of three's, Chris Smith and Peyton Siva made four free throws and Chane Behanan threw down an emphatic dunk as Louisville closed the game with a 15-5 run.
Louisville forged an identity last season for making dramatic comebacks. If Friday's game is any indication, Rick Pitino's team still has comeback magic in its arsenal.
"I think this is a carryover from last year," said Pitino. "That was a great comeback win for our guys. We made great plays down the stretch. We're in survival mode right because we're so banged up. We're trying to hold off the enemy until the cavalry arrives."
Siva, who missed Louisville's past two games with an ankle injury, started and played nearly the entire game. Clearly rusty from sitting out practice, Siva scored just four points, while committing four turnovers. Siva, though, came through late in the game, assisting on three of the Cardinals last four baskets.
"I didn't think we could win this game without Peyton Siva," said Pitino. "He's really rusty. It's kind of amazing he could play that hard. It's a tribute to the guts of that young man."
Down 49-43, Kuric connected on the first of his two late game three's to cut Ohio's lead to 49-46 with 3:30. Reggie Keely extended Ohio's lead to 51-46 on a jumper over Peyton Siva. Chris Smith then made two free throws before Kuric tied the game at 51 with another three at 2:16.
Siva then found Chris Smith cutting to the basket for an easy layup on the break that gave Louisville a 53-51 advantage. That's when Chane Behanan put an exclamation point on UofL's comeback win, driving the lane for a monster jam that put the Cards ahead 55-51 with one minute remaining.
"That was an incredible move," Pitino said.
D.J. Cooper cut Louisville's lead to 55-54 with :52 seconds remaining. Siva and Behanan closed the game out at the free throw line, connecting on all four attempts.
Louisville's defense again proved the difference. Though Ohio made 8 three pointers, Louisville held the Bobcats to just 21-55 shooting from the floor. The Cards forced 14 turnovers, blocked eight shots and limited Ohio to just two field goals in the final four minutes of the contest.
Kuric led Louisville with 16 points. Behanan chipped in 11 points. Gorgui Dieng added 10 points and 16 rebounds.
Louisville hosts Long Beach State, which defeated Pittsburgh on the road last week, Monday night.