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Louisville blows 17-point lead, but beats WVU in 2OT

NEW YORK -- Having won several close road games down the stretch, Louisville didn't panic after squandering a 17-point lead in the second half. The Cardinals (No. 15 ESPN/USA Today, No. 12 AP) kept their composure and outlasted upset-minded West Virginia.

Terrence Williams scored 21 points and Earl Clark added 17 as the Cardinals beat the Mountaineers 82-71 on Thursday night in double overtime in the quarterfinals of the Big East conference tournament.

"We've been in this situation before, going on the road to Marquette and UConn," Williams said. "Every situation you face, you're going to be in that situation already."

Louisville (23-8) won its season-high seventh straight and 11th in the last 13 games. The Cardinals, who were 6-2 on the road in conference play, advanced to a semifinal matchup against the winner of Marquette-Pittsburgh in the late game.

During the winning streak, the Cardinals also won by 13 at Pittsburgh, by two at Marquette and seven at Connecticut.

"Playing those six games that we won on the road helped us tonight because it got to the time where you can't be nervous out there," Williams said. "You have to play basketball."

Edgar Sosa drove the length of the court through most of the West Virginia team and made a left-handed layup at the buzzer to force overtime for the Cardinals.

"Normally, we want to make one pass, but there wasn't enough time," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "Everybody's afraid to foul, and Sosa did a great job of getting to the rim. He's a very confident young man and made a great play, just a fabulous play."

Frank Young had 19 points and Da'Sean Butler added 17 for the Mountaineers (22-9), who used an 18-0 run in the second half to take their first lead of the game.

Louisville had lost nine straight at Madison Square Garden since beating Iona on Jan. 5, 1984. The Cardinals, who beat West Virginia in OT in NCAA regional finals in 2005, scored the first nine points of the second overtime to take a 75-66 lead on Clark's 3 with 1:24 to go.

Jamie Smalligan, who finished with 13 points and eight rebounds, hit two free throws for the Mountaineers' first points of the period. However, Louisville then went 7-for-8 from the line to seal the win. Williams and Clark, who finished with nine rebounds apiece, each scored five points in the second OT.

One day after making a tournament-record 17 3-pointers in a win over Providence, the Mountaineers were just 6-for-25 from beyond the arc.

"It's a painful loss when you do everything and then you come back and take the lead," West Virginia coach John Beilein said. "They made some breaks go their way. We did not have many breaks in that last overtime."

Sosa, a New York native, tied the score twice in the final 27 seconds of regulation and then hit three free throws in a span of 33 seconds late in the first overtime. The last pushed Louisville's lead to 66-64 with 32 seconds to go.

"[Sosa] epitomizes what you've heard for the last 30 years about a New York City point guard," Pitino said. "He has no fear of anything, he's going to play with a lot of emotion and a lot of passion. More than anything else, what I think it means is he's faced the best competition, whether its on the playground or AAU or at his high school."

Darris Nichols hit the tying free throws 11 seconds later when Sosa fouled out, sending it to a second overtime.

Smalligan's 3 started a 9-2 run, and West Virginia took a 54-51 lead on Nichols' basket with 3:13 left in regulation. Williams hit a 3 to tie it with 2:50 to go.

Butler's layup pushed the Mountaineers ahead with 46 seconds left. Sosa's basket tied it 19 seconds later. Nichols made a go-ahead layup with 4.3 seconds to go, but Sosa tied it again with his driving layup.

"I don't know if as a team we realized how much time was left," Young said. "I tried to help Darris and get the all from Sosa, and the next thing I see he has an open lane to the basket."

Louisville opened the second half with a 9-0 run to stretch its lead to 44-27 on Clark's basket. But West Virginia scored the next 18 points and took their first lead on Nichols' layup with 8:59 to go.

David Padgett's layup with 8:03 regained the lead for Louisville, and Brandon Jenkins' 3 nearly two minutes later made it 49-45.

"We've been in a lot of games like this," Padgett said. "We've played in tough situations before. As long as we kept being aggressive on offense and being as active as we could on defense, we knew we would be right in the game."

Louisville scored the first eight points of the game and led 14-2 with 13:01 left in the first half.

The Mountaineers pulled within two on Young's free throws with 4:12 left. Louisville went on a 10-2 run before Smalligan hit two free throws with 0.4 seconds left to pull the Mountaineers to 35-27 at halftime.


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