Louisville used pressing defense to open the game strong and used an early 8-0 run, powered by five points from Francisco Garcia to build a 12-4 advantage four minutes into the game. The Cardinals recorded two steals, a block and forced a shot clock violation to fuel the early lead.
19th-ranked Memphis, who entered the contest atop Conference USA, quickly responded with a 7-0 run to grab its first lead of the game at 22-21.
The Tigers lead was short-lived as the Cardinals answered with an 11-0 run, capped off with a three-pointer from Brandon Jenkins and a fast break dunk from Otis George, widening the gap to 32-22 at the 3:00 mark of the first half.
While both teams shot over 50% from the field during opening frame, but the Cardinals defense forced the visiting Tigers into 15 first half turnovers, which led to 15 points. The Tigers out-rebounded the Cardinals 13-8 and held U of L to just one offensive rebound in the first twenty minutes of action.
The Cardinals hot-shooting continued with the start of the second half and a three-pointer by Garcia opened the Cardinals lead to 41-28. A basket by Garcia and two free throws from Larry O'Bannon stretched the advantage to 45-31.
Trailing 56-43 and Louisville's Garcia on the bench with four fouls, the Tigers increased their defensive prowess which ignited a 13-4 run narrowing the Cards lead to 60-56 with 3:25 remaining.
After seeing their lead dwindle and holding a 61-57 advantage, the Cardinals put the game away when Brandon Jenkins stole the ball and Francisco Garcia found an open Otis George for a dunk.
Louisville was led Garcia, who poured in 18 points and George who contributed 11.
"It secured an NCAA berth," said Rick Pitino of the win. "We've stayed away from double digit losses but we needed a win because I think if we didn't play that schedule, we wouldn't be in the tournament. Because playing Kentucky, Florida, Tennessee and the conference with playing Cincinnati, Memphis and Marquette twice only helps."
The Cardinals will return to the road to finish the regular season, beginning with a contest at Saint Louis on Wednesday evening.