LOUISVILLE — Preston Knowles got Louisville back in Saturday's game against Marquette with one of his shooting streaks.
But it was the shot that Knowles didn't take that capped off what Louisville Coach Rick Pitino said was the second-best comeback he's ever been associated with behind the 31-point rally over Louisiana State at Kentucky in 1994. As the final seconds ticked away, Knowles curled off a screen and dished to a wide-open Kyle Kuric for a layup with four seconds left, and Louisville erased an 18-point deficit in the final 5:44 to post a 71-70 win over shell-shocked Marquette.
"I guess, if you live long enough, you see things like that," Pitino said. "I'm still shaking. That went by so quick. It was like, all of a sudden, we won the game. We got outplayed for 34 minutes and won."
Many in the KFC Yum Center crowd of 21,485 had started toward the exits after Darius Johnson-Odom's two free throws gave Marquette a 65-47 lead at the 5:44 mark. But then Knowles caught fire, making four three-pointers in a five-minute span that helped the Cards trim the deficit to one (70-69) and get the ball for a potential game-winning possession with 12 seconds left.
Pitino drew up a play in the timeout that called for Kuric to set a high screen for Knowles, and just about everybody in the building figured the Clark County product would jack up the final shot.
Marquette flashed two defenders at Knowles, and he rose up and dumped the ball off to a wide-open Kuric, who had rolled to the basket after setting the screen. It capped a game-ending 24-5 run.
"I figured Preston was going to shoot it," Kuric said. "It doesn't matter if he's got two guys on him; he can shoot it and make it. I was just going in for the rebound, and he made a great pass."
Knowles, who finished with a game-high 17 points on 5-for-8 three-point shooting, said he had even decided in the timeout that he was going for the game-winner.
"I was talking to Kyle in the huddle, and I was like, 'It's going up,' " he said. "But they were all concentrating on me. Dude stepped up, and Kyle was wide-open."
There were heroes aplenty besides Knowles and Kuric. The entire Louisville front line was saddled by foul trouble most of the game, and Pitino saluted the contributions of junior forward Terrence Jennings.
Jennings, who has struggled with rebounding for much of his career, came through with eight boards. He grabbed a pair of key offensive rebounds in the final minute that led to fouls, and he stepped up and hit four straight free throws that put the Cards in position for the game-winner.
"T.J. gave us a big lift," Pitino said.
And with Peyton Siva struggling, Pitino turned to Shelby Valley graduate Elisha Justice to run the offense down the stretch. Justice's statistics weren't impressive (zero points, two rebounds, two assists), but he played with poise and set up two of Knowles' threes during the comeback.
"I told him, 'Son, if you're going to play scared, go down to the end of the bench, and sit," Pitino said. "But if you're going to go by people and make things happen, get in there."
It was no doubt a bitter trip back to Milwaukee for the Golden Eagles (12-6, 3-2 Big East). Marquette's quickness off the dribble caused the Cardinals fits all afternoon, resulting in 38 foul-shot attempts.
But Marquette became jittery against the Louisville press and stopped attacking the basket, going the final 7:15 without a field goal.
Marquette Coach Buzz Williams said his team lost its edge down the stretch.
"It's hard," he said. "We feel like we should have won the game. Our mentality wasn't the same as it was when we built the lead. We became passive and didn't get quality shots."
The win was a big one for the Cards (14-3, 3-1), who needed to bounce back after a 14-point loss at Villanova on Wednesday. And it will definitely get a lot of air time on Pitino's career highlight reel.
"You don't see that too often," Pitino told the media after the game.
"Have a beer on me."
The way the game ended for Marquette, Williams probably would have taken Pitino up on that offer.
No. 18 LOUISVILLE 71, MARQUETTE 70
MARQUETTE (12-6) — Crowder 4-11 0-3 8, Butler 4-9 7-9 15, Otule 0-3 5-6 5, Johnson-Odom 3-13 8-10 16, Buycks 5-11 1-2 13, Blue 0-0 0-0 0, Cadougan 1-4 7-8 9, Williams 0-1 0-0 0, Fulce 2-4 0-0 4, Gardner 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-56 28-38 70.
LOUISVILLE (14-3) — C. Smith 3-7 1-2 7, Van Treese 5-6 0-0 10, Dieng 4-5 0-1 8, Knowles 6-13 0-0 17, Siva 0-5 5-10 5, Goode 3-7 1-2 7, Kuric 4-7 0-0 10, Henderson 0-0 0-0 0, Justice 0-3 0-0 0, Jennings 1-3 5-6 7, R. Smith 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 26-57 12-21 71.
Halftime—Marquette 36-31. Three-point goals—Marquette 4-17 (Buycks 2-5, Johnson-Odom 2-7, Butler 0-1, Fulce 0-1, Crowder 0-3), Louisville 7-21 (Knowles 5-8, Kuric 2-5, R. Smith 0-1, Goode 0-1, C. Smith 0-2, Siva 0-2, Justice 0-2). Fouled out—Dieng. Rebounds—Marquette 36 (Butler 9), Louisville 38 (Jennings 8). Assists—Marquette 10 (Buycks 5), Louisville 16 (Siva, C. Smith 4). Total fouls—Marquette 18, Louisville 25. A—21,485.