One day after Rick Pitino said he wanted the ball in Luke Hancock's hands in late-game situations, the University of Louisville men's basketball team faced one.
The only problem was Hancock had fouled out and was sitting on the sidelines watching in the closing seconds of the Cardinals' game at Cincinnati on Saturday afternoon.
So, All-American Russ Smith stepped up.
Smith brought the ball down the floor with 11.8 seconds left and passed on the left wing to freshman Terry Rozier. He rose up for a shot but saw it was going to be contested, so he passed back to Smith who hit the game-winning jumper with 2.2 seconds left as the Cardinals won a tough one on the road 58-57.
"It felt good all the way," Smith said. "I knew it was either an air ball or right through the net because of the arc I put on it."
The 18-foot jumper gave the Cardinals their biggest win of the season, a hard-fought one over the No. 7 Bearcats. Louisville (23-4, 12-2 AAC) has now won six in a row since losing to Cincinnati 69-66 at home on Jan. 30.
It was a physical game with the Cardinals holding Cincinnati to nine points the first 13 minutes and leading 21-9. But the Bearcats cut it to 22-19 at half and led by three with 14:50 left in the game as U of L had foul troubles.
The Cardinals then took a 10-point lead before the Bearcats fought back for a 55-52 lead with 90 seconds remaining in the game. Freshman Troy Caupain made two free throws with 11.8 seconds left to give the Bearcats a 57-56 lead.
And then Smith did his thing.
"I thought it was a great shot," Pitino said. "But I think Terry did a great job because he could have taken that shot. He threw it back to Russ. . . . It was a difficult crowd to battle with but we keep going and pulled out the win."
Montrezl Harrell hit just 5 of 12 free throws but led the Cardinals with 21 points an 10 rebounds, while Rozier had 11 and Smith 10.
Sean Kilpatrick had 28 points for the Bearcats, who had won 19 straight games at home.
The Bearcats hit just 16 of 56 from the field, including 5 of 20 three-pointers. U of L was 22 of 55 from the field and just 11 of 22 on free throws. But the Cardinals only turned it over nine times in the game.
U of L now plays Temple on Thursday at home.