Earl Clark added 13 points for Louisville, which couldn't shake a young West Virginia team down the stretch. Neither team led by more than four points in a tightly contested second half that came down to the final shot.
Jerry Smith made two free throws to put Louisville ahead 62-58 with 12 seconds left. After West Virginia's Da'Sean Butler made a free throw, Williams was fouled and missed two straight from the line. But Butler's 3-point attempt bounced off the rim as time ran out.
East title Saturday night at WVU.
Alex Ruoff, West Virginia's second-leading scorer who averages 16.3 points, was held scoreless for the first time all season.
West Virginia was locked into the tournament's No. 7 seed no matter the outcome of Saturday's game, but there was an extra level of anticipation.
Jerry West and several teammates from West Virginia's 1958-59 team were there to commemorate the 50-year anniversary of the Mountaineers' run to the NCAA championship game, where they lost by a point to California.
The current West Virginia squad couldn't capitalize on the feel-good atmosphere.
West Virginia missed 11 of its first 12 shots and twice fell behind by 10 points in the first half. The Mountaineers tied it with a late 10-0 run, but Williams' 3-pointer with 1 second left put the Cardinals ahead 32-29 at halftime.
With Ruoff, West Virginia's only senior, on the bench in foul trouble for most of the second half, Jones and Ebanks kept the game close.
Jones scored six points early in the second half and Butler's three-point play with 12:10 left put West Virginia ahead 41-40, its first lead since the opening basket.
Ebanks' layup with 5:23 left gave the Mountaineers their final lead 54-52, but Clark's 3-pointer put Louisville ahead to stay 55-54, with 4:36 left.