In a game the ESPN-affiliated data prediction website FiveThirtyEight.com gave UC Irvine a 25 percent chance of winning, the Anteaters took a 55-53 lead with one minute, one second remaining on Luke Nelson’s jump shot.
The Cardinals tied the score with 43 seconds left on forward Wayne Blackshear’s jump shot.
Nelson missed a 3-point shot on the ensuing possession. Louisville guard Quentin Snider grabbed the loose ball rebound, was fouled by UC Irvine forward Will Davis II and made both free throws with nine seconds left.
Following a foul by Snider with six seconds left, the Anteaters were unable to get a potentially game-tying or winning shot off as guard Alex Young committed a turnover and the fourth-seeded Cardinals ran out the clock to seal the victory over 13th-seeded UC Irvine in an East Regional round of 64 game in Seattle.
“I thought in many ways in this game we were their equal,” Turner said. “Hard to say we were better because of the way the game ended up, but we were a play away from winning that game.”
There was an “incredible positive feeling” in the Anteaters’ locker room following the loss “because of the growth in our program,” Turner said.
“While I’m sorry for a guy like Will who is a senior that we didn’t win this game, it’s hard not to look around that locker room and feel incredible pride,” Turner said.
Young accepted responsibility for UC Irvine’s failure to get a shot off on its final possession.
“Being a point guard and leader on his team, I got to make sure we’re all in the right spot so we can get a shot up in that last possession of the game, so I take responsibility on that aspect,” said Young, a 6-foot-1-inch junior from Phoenix, Oregon.
“It hurts not to even get a shot up. That’s my job and I got to make sure that I can create something.”
In a second half where the biggest lead was five points, the Anteaters took its first lead since there was 2:59 left in the first half when Davis and Nelson made back-to-back jump shots to put them ahead, 51-50, with 3:59 remaining.
Louisville regained the lead 26 seconds later on Blackshear’s 3-point play.
Davis led UC Irvine (21-13) with 14 points, while Mamadou Ndiaye, its 7- foot-6-inch center, the tallest player in college basketball added 12 and Nelson 10.
Blackshear led all scorers with 19, while Snider added 16 and guard Terry Rozier 12 for the Cardinals (25-8), who will play fifth-seeded Northern Iowa Sunday in a round of 32 game.
The game was the first in the NCAA men’s Division I basketball tournament for UC Irvine, which opened in the fall of 1965 and began competing on the Division I level in 1977. It played in the Division II tournament four times.
—City News Service
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