ORLANDO, FLA. —
Now everyone knows why Louisville coach Rick Pitino wanted nothing to do with Manhattan.
Luke Hancock hit two huge 3-pointers in the final 1:19 to help Louisville finally shake free from tenacious Manhattan, 71-64 in the NCAA tournament Thursday night.
The defending national champions were down 58-55 with less than 4 minutes remaining — getting outplayed for most of the second half — before coming alive from the 3-point line.
Silky smooth guard Russ Smith, who finished with 18 points, got things going with a game-tying 3 from the wing. Hancock delivered the knockout blows. He stole an inbound pass, got fouled and made both free throws. He hit the first of two daggers with 1:19 remaining and then sank a wide-open look from behind the arc with 28 second left.
Those shots propelled fourth-seeded Louisville (30-5) into the round of 32, where it will face fifth-seeded Saint Louis on Saturday in the Midwest Region.
Ashton Pankey led 13th-seeded Manhattan (25-8) with 16 points.
"That's why I didn't want to play them, because I'm sick inside losing to one of my players," Pitino said.
While outsiders everywhere questioned why the Cardinals were seeded fourth, Pitino criticized the selection committee Wednesday for pitting his team against Manhattan, which is coached by Pitino's former assistant, Steve Masiello.
Masiello served as Pitino's ball boy with the NBA's New York Knicks in the 1980s, played for him at Kentucky (1996-1997) and then spent another six years coaching alongside him at Louisville (2005-11). They know each other inside and out, with Masiello molding Manhattan to mirror the Cardinals.
Masiello's team attacked Louisville's weaknesses and gave the Cards fits on the defensive end.
"That's one of the best coaching jobs that I have seen in my 39 years," Pitino said. "He just made us have to guard on the perimeter with four guards."