DAYTON, Ohio — Terrence Williams rallied the teetering-but-not-toppled Cardinals to a 79-72 victory Sunday in the second round of the NCAA tournament, putting Louisville in the round of 16 for the second straight year.
Williams had 24 points, 15 rebounds and one saving play after another after Coach Rick Pitino urged someone to step up in the last seven minutes.
“Only he has that type of ability to hear a voice, perform it, get it, and do it,” Pitino said.
Louisville (30-5) will play 12th-seeded Arizona in the Midwest Regional on Friday in Indianapolis, riding a 12-game winning streak that was very much in doubt in the closing minutes. Siena (27-8) overcame a 12-point deficit in the second half and led by four before Williams took over, hitting 3s, getting rebounds and starting fast breaks with one-handed passes.
Edwin Ubiles scored 24 points for the Saints, who handled Louisville’s full-court pressure and then applied some of their own. The Cardinals headed to the bench for a timeout with stunned expressions after Clarence Jackson’s lay-in put Siena up 63-59 with 7:20 to go.
“Yeah, we thought we had them,” said Kenny Hasbrouck, who scored 11 points. “We were running them up and down. We kept up with them every time. But unfortunately, I guess a team that’s good, there’s a reason they’re No. 1.”The reason was Williams.
He immediately drove for a basket and hit a 3-pointer that changed the momentum. He had nine points, five rebounds, a steal and a pair of one-handed passes for fast-break layups the rest of the way.
“He definitely stepped up,” said Earl Clark, who added 12 points and 12 rebounds. “I expect that from him. He’s our leader and he’s a great player, one of the best forwards in the country.”
“When the team was sputtering, he made some plays,” Siena coach Fran McCaffery said.
Williams two free throws with 35 seconds left put Louisville ahead 76-69 and ended the Saints’ upset chances. The loss extended the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference’s history of never having a team reach the round of 16.