What happened next will be a thorn in the side of Mountaineer fans for years to come. As the ball was tossed in bounds to Louisville point guard Edgar Sosa, the clock -- if even for a split second -- did not start as it should have. Sosa drove the length of the court, and converted a layup as time expired to tie the game, sending West Virginia and Louisville to overtime yet again in a big game. Prior to Nichols' shot, Sosa tied the game at 56 with a running layup.
Sosa, a New York City native, would foul out in the first overtime. Though he scored just eight points, his impact on the game was unquestionably a big difference.
"He epitomizes what you've heard for the last 30 years about a New York City point guard," said Louisville head coach Rick Pitino. "A New York City point guard means he has no fear of anything. He's going to play with a lot of emotion and a lot of passion.
"He's very big at those moments, and wants those moments."
For much of the first half, there were plenty of big moments for Pitino's team. The Cardinals raced out to a 8-0 lead, and built an advantage as high as 18 points. In many ways, it was a stark contrast to what had happened two years ago in the Elite Eight. In that game, the Mountaineers built a first-half lead as big as 21 points before eventually running out of gas in overtime.
On Thursday night, it was the Mountaineers who fell behind and came back from the dead. The game clock issue was certainly not the only thing that did in the Mountaineers. In the game's first seven minutes, West Virginia attempted just six field goals while turning the ball over an uncharacteristic six times during that same span. Trailing by nine at halftime, the Mountaineers would see Louisville's lead grow as big as 17 points in the second half.
Trailing 44-27, West Virginia would go on an 18-0 run over a stretch of nine minutes that culminated with a runner by Nichols, giving the Mountaineers their first lead of the game. For the rest of regulation, the teams would trade baskets to set up the storybook ending.
In the first overtime, it was West Virginia which drew first blood. The Mountaineers led 60-58, only to see Louisville score seven of the next nine points. Nichols again came through in the clutch, tying the game with a pair of free throws with 21 seconds remaining in the first overtime. A fadeaway jumper by Louisville's Terrence Williams would not fall at the buzzer, sending the game into the second extra frame.
For the final five minutes, Pitino's team would dominate. The Cardinals outscored West Virginia 16-5 in the final period, including five points each from forwards Earl Clark and Williams.
After the game, both teams commented on yet another classic between the two schools.
"For some reason, we always have great games with West Virginia," said Pitino.
"I think that was a great basketball game," added Mountaineer head coach John Beilein.
The Mountaineers were led by Young, who finished with 19 points, six rebounds, and three steals. Da'Sean Butler scored 17 points off the bench, and junior center Jamie Smalligan added 13 in relief of injured starter Rob Summers.
Louisville had four players in double figures, led by Williams with 21. The Cardinals will now play the 9:00 semi-final on Friday night against the winner of Pitt-Marquette.
West Virginia heads home wondering what could have been, and praying for a third straight trip to the NCAA Tournament.