CINCINNATI (AP) -- Taquan Dean took No. 19 Louisville on quite a
ride, then got one himself.
Dean scored 25 points on Saturday, leading the Cardinals'
furious comeback from a 17-point deficit to a 69-66 victory over
Cincinnati (No. 13 ESPN/USA Today; No. 18 AP) in one of the most remarkable games in the
long-standing history rivalry.After Jihad Muhammad's long 3-point attempt smacked harmlessly
off the backboard to end the game, Dean climbed onto the shoulders
of forward Ellis Myles and rode off the court, his mouth open in
amazement."I knew my teammates would step it up eventually," said Dean,
who was 7-of-13 from behind the arc. "We've been in that situation
before. We just looked at each other and said, 'We're going to win
this game.' We didn't look at each other once and look down."The Cardinals (14-3, 3-1 Conference USA) got shoved around and
trailed by 17 points in the first half, rattled by Cincinnati's
unrelenting man-to-man defense. Louisville found its composure,
asserted itself inside and showed more poise when it mattered."The toughest part is we had the lead and weren't able to
sustain it," said James White, who had 15 points for Cincinnati.
"Anytime we get a team down like that, we've got to finish them
off."There were three ties in the final 4 minutes before freshman
Juan Palacios' tip-in put Louisville ahead to stay 67-65.
Cincinnati's Jason Maxiell missed the first of his two free throws
with 45 seconds left.Louisville then ran down the shot clock, and Francisco Garcia
passed out of a double team to Larry O'Bannon, who sneaked
unguarded under the basket for the deciding layup with 11 seconds
to play."It was just a defensive breakdown," said Nick Williams, who
led Cincinnati with 18 points. "Somebody lost their man. It
shouldn't have happened. But the game shouldn't have come down to
that."Garcia was the main target of Cincinnati's defense, and went
only 2-of-13 from the field with seven points. He finished with six
assists, including the pass that decided the game."Francisco made an unbelievable pass on the backdoor play,"
Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "That shows how special he
is."After a timeout, Cincinnati (14-2, 3-1) couldn't do better than
Muhammad's long, desperation shot that was well off the mark and
broke the rivals' recent pattern. The home team had won the last
seven games in their series.Myles, the Cardinals' leading rebounder, had only six rebounds
and five points, twice shot air balls on free throws, and had to
play tentatively after picking up his fourth foul with 8:18 to
play. It barely slowed the Cardinals, who had 11 more rebounds in
the second half out of their zone defense.O'Bannon added 18 points for Louisville, which won despite
shooting a season-low 37.5 percent from the field.The Bearcats' biggest problems came from the free throw line,
where they went only 17-of-30. Maxiell, a 64 percent shooter from
the line, was only 7-of-13."It's demoralizing," Bearcats coach Bob Huggins said. "Down
the stretch we got the ball where we wanted it to go, and we were
1-of-4 from the foul line. It de-energizes you."Cincinnati had the energy flowing early.Playing in front of their biggest home crowd of the season --
there hadn't been a sellout in the 13,176-seat arena until Saturday
-- the Bearcats set a bump-and-grind tone that knocked the
conference's most accurate shooters off their mark.The Bearcats ran off to a 10-0 lead, surprising the Cardinals by
pushing the pace. Muhammad hit a 3 and a fastbreak layoff after
stripping Myles of the ball.In the opening minutes, the officials repeatedly stopped the
game to calm it down.Cincinnati's Eric Hicks swung his elbows emphatically after a
rebound and smacked Myles in the chest, driving him backward.
Referee Ed Hightower stopped play at one point to warn Myles and
Hicks about shoving and trash talking.The physical play got the desired result: Louisville became
tentative and missed 13 of its first 15 shots. The Cardinals'
shooters lead the conference at 49.1 percent.White's 3-pointer gave Cincinnati its biggest lead, 25-8.
Louisville never got closer than 10 points before the break.