And thanks to a sensational second half from Scottie Reynolds it turned into a white-mare. The Villanova senior guard scored 36 points, 30 in the second half, to lead the fourth-ranked Wildcats to a 92-84 win over the University of Louisville in front of a raucous crowd of 20,076 fans at Freedom Hall, and a national television audience, Monday night.
"It was a really hard-fought game," UofL coach Rick Pitino said. "I think we pressed as well as any team I've had here in the first half, except we worked really hard, didn't some really good things, but we didn't make them pay enough. We should've had about 60 points at halftime. We'd make a great steal, then we'd turn it over. "When you work that hard and come up empty on offense that really hurts you. We just had too many turnovers in that game."
It was a game that featured 67 fouls, 94 free throws and lasted more than two and a half hours as Villanova rallied from a 17-point first-half deficit to hand the Cardinals their first Big East Conference defeat.
UofL (12-5, 3-1) got a perfect shooting night from sophomore center Samardo Samuels, who hit all four of his field goal attempts and all 13 of his free throw tries on his way to 21 points, but shot a season-low 31.7 percent (19 for 60) from the field. The Cardinals were plagued by 22 turnovers, including 14 in a first half that they dominated for the most part.
Riding the wave of emotion from the "White Out" and four quick three-pointers Louisville led 18-9 after seven minutes.
The Cards continued to build on that lead with some relentless defense.
"The first half we were back on our heels," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "That was one of the craziest first halves I've ever seen. "We've never been taken out of what we do like we were in the first half."
A 14-2 run, highlighted by a technical foul on Wright, helped Louisville build a 38-21 lead with 5:43 to play in the first half.
But the Wildcats (15-1, 4-0) closed the gap to 43-36 by halftime. UofL forced 17 first-half Villanova turnovers and had a 25-14 advantage on the backboards, but the Cards only led by seven due to 33.3 percent shooting (12 of 36) and 14 turnovers of their own.
The Wildcats' comeback continued in the second half, led by Reynolds. His three-pointer and fall-away jumper quickly pulled Villanova within two (46-44).
Then his three-pointer with 15 minutes to play gave the Wildcats their first lead of the game, 54-53. That highlighted a 17-2 run by Villanova that was earmarked by three straight steals and easy baskets that gave the Wildcats a 63-55 lead.
Edgar Sosa's three-point play ended UofL's skid with 12:27 to play, but the senior guard picked up his fourth foul (all came in the second half) less than three minutes later. Both Sosa and sophomore forward Jared Swopshire were saddled with four fouls midway through the half.
The Cards stayed close, then made a run late.
Sosa's three-pointer with 2:35 left made it 86-83. Then after Villanova's Corey Fisher missed a pair of free throws UofL had a chance to pull closer, but Preston Knowles missed a three.
From there it was too much Reynolds, who scored the Wildcats' final 16 points. His scoop shot with 58 seconds left seal the win.
"He did a great job in a crucial situation," Pitino said of Reynolds, who hit 9 of 10 field goal attempts and 13 of 17 from the foul line. "You've got to give him credit, he got to the foul line. It's like a turnover, if you foul him it's basically like a turnover because he's going to make his free throws."
Sosa added 17 points, but he and senior guard Jerry Smith had five turnovers apiece, while Knowles had four. UofL made 39 of 45 free throws (86.7 percent), but were just 7 of 33 (21.2 percent) from three-point range.
"The effort, I give it a 10, but the offensive spacing and passing was very poor and that's what hurt us," Pitino said. "It caused a lot of loose basketballs to go in their favor.
"The effort is unbelievable, the kids are giving great effort, it's just the execution is not there from a passing standpoint. And we've got to utilize it better."
Louisville next plays at 16th-ranked Pittsburgh at noon Saturday.