"It was a great shot," commented Marquette's Dominic James after the game. "This was one that we definitely wanted for our fans. It was an unbelievable atmosphere tonight."
Smith, who finished the night with nine points, all on threes, came into tonight's game second in the Big East in three-point percentage, shooting just under 48% on the season. He hit three of his shots in the final three minutes. Two down the stretch to pull Louisville back to within a point, and then the game-winner.
Said Louisville head coach Rick Pitino, "It was going to be a buzzer beater tonight, and given the whole Cinderella story [with Smith being from the area] I would have picked Jerry Smith [to make the shot]. It's just something about playing in front of your family that gives you that extra adrenaline."
In the first half, Louisville, led by 10 points from Derrick Caracter, dominated from a physical standpoint. Yet the score remained close, and a David Cubillan three sent Marquette to the locker rooms down 28-29 at intermission.
A late run by the Golden Eagles made it seem as if they might start to pull away as the game neared the final five minutes. After a scoring drought lasting over seven minutes, Dan Fitzgerald hit a three to give Marquette its first lead since the early going with 10:06 to play. Over the next six minutes, Fitzgerald and Jerel McNeal traded baskets from beyond the arc, but the Cardinals kept pace thanks to five points from freshman Edgar Sosa during the stretch. Marquette's largest lead was 57-50 at the 3:32 mark. Then Smith began his late-game heroics.
"Give credit to those guys," said McNeal. "They made a few big shots down the stretch, and we didn't do the things we needed to do to pull the game out at the end."
Louisville was led in scoring by Sosa, with 15 points, and Caracter, who finished with 14. Center David Padgett played a season-low seven minutes for the Cardinals. Padgett picked up three fouls in the first 1:57 and sat until the second half, where he would eventually foul out with 5:27 left in the game.
McNeal finished the night as Marquette's only double-digit scorer, leading all participants with 18 points. He went 3-4 from three-point range and also contributed four assists. Fitzgerald and James scored nine points apiece and Wes Matthews added eight.
Marquette head coach Tom Crean was happy his team would not have the luxury of time to pore over this loss. Marquette's next contest is a 6:00 home showdown with Villanova Monday night.
"It's great," said Crean of the quick turnaround. "We have to just turn right around and go."
**Jeff Wolf is a freshman majoring in Advertising.