Up two with less than ten seconds left on the clock, Louisville’s Terry Rozier made the play of the day.
The Cardinals had fouls to give, and after giving one up, Rozier picked the pocket of a UC Irvine ball-handler and Wayne Blackshear — fittingly — came up with the loose ball, dribbling out a nail-biting, 57-55 win over the Anteaters.
No. 4 Louisville will advance to take on No. 5 Northern Iowa.
Blackshear played one of his best games in a Louisville uniform on Friday. With Montrezl Harrell struggling to deal with the size of Irvine center Mamadou Ndiaye, who stands 7-foot-6, Blackshear went off for 19 points, hitting a number of critical shots down the stretch, including a game-tying layup in the final minute.
Blackshear wasn’t the only unsung hero for the Cardinals. Freshman Quentin Snider, who is only starting because Chris Jones was dismissed from the program, finished with 16 huge points for the Cardinals. With 10 seconds left in the game, it was Snider who was fouled tracking down a long rebound, and it was Snider who hit the game-winning free throws.
All in all, Louisville should feel fairly lucky to have survived. Ndiaye was terrific in the second half, and Louisville’s press didn’t bother the Anteaters all that much. Throw in the fact that both Harrell and Rozier had off-nights, and it was a recipe for disaster. But as the saying goes, survive and advance, and that’s precisely what the Cardinals did.
But it also should tell you that Louisville has a lot of things to figure out if they’re going to reach the Sweet 16. As we all saw earlier this afternoon, Northern Iowa can play.