Some quick thoughts on No. 4 seed Louisville's 71-64 win over No. 13 seed Manhattan on Thursday in the second round of the NCAA tournament:
What it means: The defending national champs are lucky to be alive.
Manhattan nearly pulled off a shocking upset Thursday night in Orlando, Fla. The Cardinals were one of the hottest teams in the country and a trendy pick to win it all for a second consecutive season. But the Jaspers had the lead with less than three minutes to go and nearly took them down in their first NCAA tournament game since 2004.
Steve Masiello, the latest Rick Pitino protege to guide a team to the Big Dance, made his March Madness debut against the man he calls "a second father" and surely did him proud.
The turning point: Manhattan never led in the first half, but it never fell behind by double digits, either. Louisville took its biggest lead, 31-23, on a Montrezl Harrell jumper with 2:24 remaining, but the Jaspers were down only 35-29 at intermission. Michael Alvarado scored 10 first-half points for Manhattan. The Cardinals shot just 36.4 percent (12-for-33) but had 11 offensive rebounds and forced 10 turnovers.
The Jaspers scored the first eight points of the second half to take their first lead of the game, 37-35, on an Emmy Andujar layup with 16:24 to play. But Louisville quickly regained the lead. Manhattan surged in front again late and was up 60-58 on a Tyler Wilson lay-in with 2:35 left. But then Luke Hancock took over.
Hancock, the most outstanding player in last year's Final Four, hit two free throws with 1:53 remaining to put Louisville back on top, 62-60. He nailed a 3-pointer 32 seconds later to make it 65-60. And then he sank the dagger -- another trey with 27 seconds left, making it 68-62. The Cardinals finished the victory off at the foul line.
Star watch: Russ Smith had a game-high 18 points for Louisville, although he shot just 3-for-9 from the field. Hancock scored 16 points. Harrell finished with 12 points and 13 rebounds.
Masiello used 11 different players, and eight of them scored. It was a total team effort on Manhattan's part, and a valiant one. Ashton Pankey scored a team-high 16 points, and Andjuar added 13 off the bench. Leading scorer George Beamon scored just seven points, 12 under his average, shooting 3-for-10.
Number crunch: For the game, Louisville shot just 36.4 percent from the field (20-for-55) and 30.8 percent from beyond the arc (4-for-13). But the Cardinals were 27-for-35 from the foul line (77.1 percent), making 12 more free throws than Manhattan.
What's next: Louisville will play No. 5 seed St. Louis on Saturday. The Billikens made up a 16-point deficit to beat No. 12 seed NC State (in overtime) earlier Thursday night in Orlando.
The Jaspers head home to Riverdale, with their heads held high.