LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Down a point with the clock running out, No. 16 Louisville had no choice but to trust Mangok Mathiang’s jump shot. And hope.
The sophomore center’s 15-footer with 2.7 seconds was true, giving the Cardinals the lead and an unlikely hero in their 59-57 victory over No. 2 Virginia on Saturday night.
After Malcolm Brogdon hit his fourth 3 of the half to give Virginia a 57-56 lead with 13 second left, the Cardinals ran a play hoping to set up one of its two stars, guard Terry Rozier or forward Montrezl Harrell. But when was Rozier was double-teamed he found Mathiang open at the free throw line for the winner and his only points of the game.
“Mangok was the 64th option,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino quipped.
It was Mathiang’s second field goal since Jan. 31. Scoring less than three points a game and known more for his high energy than offensive prowess, Pitino said Mathiang has spent the past two months practicing that shot after teams have increasingly left him open.
“That shot was good from the moment it left his hand,” Pitino said. “I’m really happy for him because he put in the work.”
Even Mathiang was surprised.
“I was just shocked that I made it,” Mathiang admitted. “I was running, then Trez came hugged me and everybody was around me. This is a real big deal.”
A big deal indeed. Louisville (24-7, 12-6) snapped Virginia’s nine-game winning streak and its perfect road record. The win clinched fourth place in the conference for the Cardinals, earning them a spot in the quarterfinals to start the ACC tournament.
“We wanted to get this double-bye,” Pitino said.
Virginia (28-2, 16-2) didn’t seem fazed by the way they played the game’s critical moment.
“I don’t want to say I expected him to not make, but I was OK with the way we defended that possession,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said.
Guard London Perrantes was even more direct in his assessment.
“I’d let him shoot it 10 times out of 10,” said Perrantes, who finished with seven points but four of the Cavaliers’ 13 turnovers.
Harrell had 20 points and 12 rebounds in his last home game for Louisville. Rozier and Quentin Snider each added 11 points for the Cardinals.
Brogdon scored 16 of his 17 points in the second half for regular-season conference champion Virginia.
The Cardinals led 52-44 with 5:56 remaining after two Harrell free throws. Virginia pulled even with an 8-0 run in 1:42, capped by Nolte’s 3 with 4:08 remaining.
Wayne Blackshear’s driving layup with 2:47 left was Louisville’s first field goal in more than 7 minutes and put the Cardinals up by 2 with 2:47 to play.
A Rozier stepback 16-footer from the elbow with 1:52 left pushed the lead to 56-52 before Brogdon scored five straight.
Virginia: The Cavaliers entered Saturday first nationally in scoring defense at 49.9 points per game. … Justin Anderson, out for the past month with a broken finger, missed the game after having an appendectomy Thursday.
Louisville: Louisville’s 1975 Final Four team and the school’s first NCAA title winners from 1980 were honored at halftime.
END OF AN ERA:
Louisville honored senior Wayne Blackshear and junior Harrell before their final home game as Cardinals. Harrell is expected to enter the NBA draft after the season.
Blackshear finished with nine points, opening the game with a 3-pointer.
Blackshear and Harrell are the last two remaining players from the 2013 national title winners. In recounting the duo’s accomplishments of two regular season championships, three conference tournament titles and two Final Fours, Pitino said, “It’s sort of the end of an era.”
Virginia: ACC tournament.
Louisville: ACC tournament.