The Cardinals, winners of seven straight, won in dramatic fashion Thursday night against No. 7 West Virginia when Edgar Sosa drove the length of the court for a layup just before the final buzzer sounded to send the game to overtime. Louisville, of course, eventually won, needing double-overtime to finish off the Mountaineers, 82-71.
The key for Louisville was defense. Despite a long second half scoring drought that helped West Virginia to an 18-0 run that catapulted the Mountaineers from a 17 point deficit to a one-point, the Cardinals did enough defensively to advance.
Louisville, remarkably, held West Virginia to 7-of-31 shooting from the three-point line just one night after the Mountaineers hit a Big East Tournament record 17 three's in 31 attempts against Providence. The Cardinals held West Virginia to 37 percent overall shooting and out-rebounded the Mountaineers 41-36. Louisville also blocked six shots and made eight steals.
"We're playing really well right now. It feels kind of like it did two years ago when we went to the Final Four," said starting center David Padgett, who scored 16 points against the Mountaineers.
role tonight against Pittsburgh and
All-Big East star Aaron Gray.
Sophomore forward Terrence Williams played like a guy determined to prove that he belonged on the first team All-Big East squad instead of the second team that he was selected to earlier this week. The 6-5 Williams scored 21 points and grabbed nine rebounds and played a major role for the Cardinals down the stretch.
Louisville also got a huge performance from Earl Clark. Clark, making just his second career start, came through for injured junior forward Juan Palacios, scoring 17 points and hauling down nine boards.
"That was a very difficult game for Earl and he came through with shining colors," said Pitino.
Now, Louisville readies for what figures to be a physical game against 13th-ranked Pittsburgh. Ironically, it was a dominating, 66-53, win over the Panthers Feb. 12 that turned the Cardinals season around and started Rick Pitino's team on their current winning streak.
In that game, Louisville used stingy defense to force 19 Pittsburgh turnovers and completely throw the Panthers offense off-balance. Normally a solid outside shooting team, Louisville held Pittsburgh to 3-of-21 three-point shooting in the earlier matchup, while Padgett and 6-9 Derrick Caracter combined for 24 points and helped keep 7-foot Aaron Gray on the bench for 14 minutes with foul problems.
Caracter could be a big factor against Gray and the Panthers Friday night. The talented freshman played just seven minutes Thursday night against West Virginia and figures to be well rested for tonight's contest. In the first game against Pittsburgh, Caracter scored 8 points.
Pittsburgh, who tied with Louisville for second place in the Big East standings, advanced to tonight's semifinals by downing Marquette, 89-79.