Edgar Sosa is finally out of RickPitino's doghouse.
The much-maligned Louisville point guard hit a 30-footer with
2.8 seconds remaining to give the 18th-ranked Cardinals a 74-71
victory over archrival Kentucky on Sunday.
Sosa finished with 18 points, Terrence Williams had 19 points
and eight rebounds and Jerry Smith scored 11 points for Louisville
(9-3), which escaped a major meltdown in the final seconds to beat
the Wildcats at Freedom Hall for the first time since 2002.
Jodie Meeks led Kentucky (11-4) with 28 points and Patrick
Patterson had 22 points and 15 rebounds.
The Wildcats put together a brilliant rally to tie the game at
71 on two free throws by Meeks with 23 seconds left.
Sosa, whose erratic play led Pitino to bench him earlier in the
season, held the ball until 6 seconds remained, took two dribbles
and hit the shot from well above the head of the key over Michael
Porter's desperation heave from halfcourt missed as time
Sosa's heroics hardly seemed necessary after the junior gave
Louisville a 71-64 lead with two free throws with 51 seconds left.
Yet Meeks was fouled while attempting a 3-pointer. He made all
three free throws to cut the deficit to 71-67 before two mental
gaffes by Louisville's Earl Clark somehow helped the Wildcats tie
Clark threw an inbounds pass right to Patterson, who hit Meeks
for a layup. Clark somehow threw it away again moments later. He
tried to hit Sosa running deep, but the pass sailed too long. The
Wildcats tracked it down and got it to Meeks, who drove the lane,
was fouled and hit two free throws to tie it.
The Cardinals inbounded to Sosa, who calmly took his time before
knocking down the biggest shot of his career and capping the
comeback performance he desperately needed.
Sosa seemed destined for stardom after a breakout freshman
season that he capped with a 31-point performance in a loss to
Texas A&M in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Yet he's spent most of the last two seasons trying to duplicate
that performance. Chastised by Pitino for being too emotional, Sosa
played all of six minutes in a win over UAB last weekend and was
sloppy in a loss to UNLV on New Year's Eve.
Pitino said Sosa briefly considered transferring before the
coach convinced him to stay.
It worked out brilliantly, and just in time to salvage
Louisville's disappointing nonconference schedule that included
losses to Western Kentucky, Minnesota and the Runnin' Rebels.
Kentucky had its six-game winning streak snapped thanks to a
familiar culprit: turnovers. The Wildcats, who were averaging 18.2
turnovers a game, gave it away 21 times, including six by Meeks.
Still, the Wildcats had nearly enough to pull off the miracle.
Kentucky trailed by as many as nine points before finally taking
its first lead at 43-42 on a putback by Patterson less than 3
minutes into the second half.
The lead lasted all of three seconds.
Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie received a technical foul
immediately after the basket, and the Cardinals responded by
reeling off 12 straight points, including a three-point play by
Sosa that made it 54-43. Williams hit a 3-pointer moments later to
push it to 57-45.