LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – It was a comeback for the ages. They'll be talking about this game, and the way it ended, for years. It was one for the history books. It just wasn't the kind of history the University of Louisville basketball program needed right now.

Louisville led No. 1-ranked Virginia by four points with one second left. It wasn't enough. Virginia, let it be said, plays until the end. But on a night when Louisville had a signature victory, a storybook Senior Night Sendoff and a punched ticket to the NCAA Tournament in its grasp, it walked away into a soggy March night along the Ohio River.

Actually, it walked away in the north end zone of the KFC Yum! Center, where Deng Adel took off running trying to find an open man with 0.9 seconds left. Unfortunately, he was trying to inbound after a Virginia lane violation. And he wasn't allowed to take a step. The traveling call gave Virginia one last chance, and that's where a veteran Cavaliers team has lived all season.

After some confusion gave coach Tony Bennett time to draw up a play, Virginia found De'Andre Hunter open for a deep three along the left sideline, and he banged it home as time expired.

Virginia 67, Louisville 66.

Adel collapsed on the court. Louisville's players slumped. They had led the No. 1 team in the nation for 34 minutes and had trailed for less than three. That doesn't matter.

For a second time this season, Louisville played one of its best games of the season, and came up short against the nation's top-ranked team.

"It was a prayer," Louisville interim coach David Padgett said. "A prayer from 30 feet. . . . It always comes down to the coach. I could've done a few things differently. That's on me. It's not on the players."

Adel's travel wasn't the only late-game transgression. Ryan McMahon, one of the Cards' top free-throw shooters all season, missed two of four on back-to-back trips to the line in the final 40 seconds. And after two Darius Perry free throws put Louisville up 66-59, it appeared a Louisville celebration was imminent. Then Jerome, who hit a huge three to cut a five-point Louisville lead to two with 8 seconds left, pulled up with one second left and fired. He missed, but was fouled by Perry. The clock stopped with less than a second left.

He made two of three, then disaster for Louisville.

"The game doesn't come down to one play. It never does," Padgett said. 

You have to wonder how much this team can take.

"We have no choice," Padgett said. "We have to win this game (Saturday at N.C. State)."

But this was as devastating a loss as I've seen a Louisville team take in this building. Instead of being a springboard to bigger things, that was as deflated a Louisville team as you saw after last week's loss to Duke.

Louisville went from the verge of becoming one of the more intriguing storylines at the ACC Tournament to becoming perhaps a footnote to a sad tale of turmoil at the university and within its athletic department.

The Cardinals did a lot of things to lose on Thursday. It also has to be remembered, my goodness. Virginia did a ton of things to win. It made the big shots. It made big plays. It never panicked.

The message from Padgett to his players after the game was still the same.

"I told them I love them, and that I'm proud of them," he said.

It was a tough night, too, for Padgett. And for the 19,413 fans who showed up to bid goodbye to who knows how many pieces from this team. They didn't get the finish they wanted. And once again, they'll have to be resilient.


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