LOUISVILLE — When Edgar Sosa rose 26 feet from the basket, less than five seconds remained in one of the most dramatic games of the always-entertaining Kentucky-Louisville series.
Visions of the first UK-Louisville game to go into overtime since the epic 1983 NCAA Tournament region final played on the mind.
"Man, he pulled up from deep," said Michael Porter, the UK defender who let prudence be his guide by anticipating a drive by Sosa. "I didn't think there was a chance in heck he'd make it."
But this case of wrong player at the right time hit the shot with 2.8 seconds left to give Louisville a 74-71 victory on Sunday.
Kentucky expected Sosa to drive, and not simply because the junior from New York City had made only seven of 35 three-point shots this season.
Any doubts about Sosa's intentions evaporated when Sosa waved off Will Scott's attempt to set a pick. The plan — Sosa drive and either shoot or pass to a presumably open teammate on the perimeter — was kaput.
"He kept backing up and backing up," Sosa said of Porter. "So I just stopped on a dime and put it up. It's the greatest feeling in my life."
Of course, UK players were not so euphoric. The shot cruelly punctuated a courageous effort that saw the Cats absorb U of L's try at an early knockout, then rally again from a seven-point deficit inside the final 50 seconds.
"To lose a game like that is pretty heart-breaking," said Jodie Meeks, who led UK with 28 points.
With Kentucky (11-4) losing a sixth straight game against a ranked foe over two seasons, Coach Billy Gillispie accepted the ill-fated ending.
"You know, when you think about the entire possession, if you would settle for a (26-foot) jumper with no pass, you would take your chances," he said.
Sosa finished with a season-high 18 points for No. 18 U of L (9-3). Terrence Williams led with 19 points.
Kentucky never led in the first half. But the Cats survived Louisville's fast start and their own turnovers to stay in the game.
Louisville led by as much as nine early and a blowout seemed possible. UK turned over the ball on its first two possessions, had six turnovers by the first television timeout and 14 in the half.
"I felt like it was kind of my fault the way we started," said Meeks, who had three of his four first-half turnovers in the game's first two minutes. "I got in too big a rush, trying to make the real big play instead of the easy play."
Louisville blanketed Patrick Patterson and Meeks. Neither of UK's double-digit scorers had a basket in the first six minutes. Patterson, who finished with 22 points, did not touch the ball in the low post until the 14:20 mark (when he wasn't looking as DeAndre Liggins' fastball feed bounced off the big man).
Then the pair made up for lost time. Back-to-back three-pointers began a run of 10 straight points by Meeks.
In all, Patterson and Meeks combined to score 18 straight points to keep UK alive.
In the second half, Patterson and Meeks picked up where they left off. The pair accounted for UK's first 15 points and 21 of the first 24.
Back-to-back put-backs by Patterson, who had 14 points in the second half, put UK ahead 43-42 with 17:17 left. It was the Cats' first lead.
Coincidentally or not, momentum shifted to Louisville's favor when the referees hit Gillispie with a technical foul seconds after Patterson's second put-back.
Louisville scored the next 12 points to build its first double-digit lead, 57-45 with 13:07 left.
Led by who else? — Meeks and Patterson, Kentucky twice got within five points before the final television timeout. Meeks' three-pointer, his first basket since the 19:36 mark, closed the deficit to 64-59 with 6:51 left. A foul-line jumper by Perry Stevenson made it 66-61 with 4:32 left.
It took a three-shot trip downcourt for Kentucky to get closer. After Stevenson, suddenly a hot alternative, missed from the top of the key and U of L blocked Meeks' pull-up, Porter hit a three-pointer to make it 66-64 with 2:53 left.
Counting Sosa's improbable winner, Louisville made only two baskets in the final 9:04. But with the game on the line, the Cards did not allow Kentucky to get the lead.
Sosa's two free throws with 50.7 seconds left seemed to put U of L safely ahead 71-64. Then Jerry Smith fouled Meeks on a three-point attempt, beginning another comeback.
Kentucky cashed in two straight U of L turnovers, the second netting two Meeks free throws to tie it at 71-71 with 22.9 seconds left.
The crowd oozed anxiety as Sosa dribbled near mid-court, then waved off Scott.
"We knew he wasn't one of their better three-point shooters, percentage-wise," Porter said. "But he's a good player. Good players make big shots."