DAYTON, Ohio — The crushing full-court press wasn’t getting anything done against unflappable Siena. A double-digit lead had evaporated. And it was clear to everyone the top-seeded team was starting to panic.
Coach Rick Pitino called a timeout and made a challenge.
“You’ve got to prove to yourselves now you’re a great basketball team,” he told the rattled players.
His carefree senior got the message. 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 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 Siena’s 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.”