ORLANDO, Fla. — Louisville took a look in the mirror Thursday night and didn’t like what it saw for 38 minutes against Manhattan.
The Jaspers, coached by former Cardinals assistant Steve Masiello, were using Louisville’s defensive schemes, and Manhattan was within two minutes of a stunning upset.
However, fourth-seeded Louisville woke up in time, riding eight consecutive points from senior forward Luke Hancock in the final 1:53 to beat 13th-seeded Manhattan 71-64 in an NCAA Tournament second-round game at the Amway Center.
Hancock, who scored 16 points, and guard Russ Smith, who had 18, rallied the Cardinals from a 58-55 deficit in the final 3:21. Louisville plays fifth-seeded Saint Louis on Saturday, with the winner advancing to the Midwest Regional semifinals in Indianapolis.
“I thought Manhattan was the better team for most of tonight,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said, “and we were the better team at the end.”
“This game just shows it’s hard to play yourself,” added Smith, who was only 3-for-9 from the field and had six turnovers before tying the game at 58 with his only 3-pointer of the game. “Because of coach Masiello, Manhattan knew everything we were going to do. They knew our moves, our counter moves and our counters to those moves. It was very frustrating.”
Louisville forward Montrezl Harrell contributed 12 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks. The defending champion Cardinals (30-5) had to outscore Manhattan 11-4 in the final two minutes to win the game.
The Jaspers (25-8) were led by forward Ashton Pankey, who scored 16 points. Forward Emmy Andujar added 13, and guard Michael Alvarado finished with 10.
“I thought it was two good teams playing tonight and I thought their experience being here showed a little bit down the stretch,” Masiello said.
Manhattan led 58-55 after forward Rhamel Brown’s layup with 4:19 to go, but Hancock and Louisville responded with a rush to the finish line.
Smith started the comeback with a 3-pointer to tie the game with 3:21 left. The score was tied again at 60 when Hancock started his run with two free throws. He then knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers, the second one giving Louisville a 68-62 lead with 27 seconds to play.
“That’s what happens when you play great teams,” Masiello said. “You give them that one opportunity and they make you pay, and that’s why this team is defending national champions and top five in the country.”
Smith sealed it with three free throws in the final eight seconds.
Louisville started the second half with three turnovers and two missed shots, giving Manhattan a chance to strike, and the Jaspers did, scoring eight straight points. Andujar’s driving layup finished the run and gave Manhattan a 37-35 lead with 16:24 left.
Louisville took that as a wakeup call.
Harrell got a dish from guard Chris Jones and dunked it to tie the score. Jones stole the inbounds pass and was fouled. He made both free throws, and in less than 20 seconds, the Cardinals had the lead back, 39-37.
Manhattan would not let Louisville get away.
The Jaspers made only one field goal between the 11-minute mark and Brown’s layup with 4:19 to go, but they still managed to take the lead. Manhattan got nine points at the free-throw line and eventually moved on top 56-55 when Andujar hit two free throws with 4:57 left.
Brown followed with a layup to make it 58-55, and what was left of the crowd of 14,000 came alive with the feel of an upset in the making.
Louisville couldn’t find a hot hand in the first half, spreading its 35 points almost evenly among the five starters. Smith and Hancock had eight points apiece at the break, Jones added seven and Harris collected six as the Cardinals worked to post a 35-29 halftime advantage.
The Cardinals limited forward George Beamon, Manhattan’s leading scorer, to 2-of-7 shooting before halftime, but he was bailed out by Alvarado, who had 10 first-half points, hitting both of his 3-point attempts.
NOTES: Manhattan’s last NCAA Tournament appearance was in 2004, when the Jaspers upset Florida in the first round. … Louisville coach Rick Pitino improved to 49-16 (.754) in NCAA Tournament games. He ranks second among active coaches in winning percentage. …
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