The officials were checking television replays to see whether Kentucky's Patrick Sparks should get three free throws in the final second against Louisville. Hoping to keep his...
LOUISVILLE, Ky. The officials were checking television replays to see whether Kentucky’s Patrick Sparks should get three free throws in the final second against Louisville.
Hoping to keep his player calm, coach Tubby Smith went over, put his arm around Sparks and struck up a conversation.
“I asked him what he’s getting for Christmas to kind of break the ice,” Smith said.
Showing no nerves, Sparks made all three shots from the line to cap his 25-point performance and complete the Wildcats’ comeback for a 60-58 victory over their rival and former coach Rick Pitino.
“I just wanted to step up there and not think about nothing,” Sparks said.
The Wildcats (7-1) trailed 32-16 at halftime and were down 58-57 after Larry O’Bannon made two free throws for Louisville with 15.2 seconds to go.
Smith called timeout with 4.8 seconds left to set up the decisive play. Sparks inbounded the ball, then received a pass in the corner. He faked, then jumped into airborne Louisville forward Ellis Myles to draw a whistle from referee J.B. Caldwell.
“I made a stupid play,” said Myles, who had eight points and 10 rebounds.
The buzzer sounded an instant later, and Caldwell and referee Gerald Boudreaux checked to see if Caldwell made the call before time expired. While fans and players waited, Sparks chewed gum and wandered around the court before Smith approached him.
“I was just hanging out, really,” Sparks said. “I just wanted to step up there and knock them down.”
With 0.6 seconds on the clock, Sparks a 71 percent shooter from the line swished the winning shots.
O’Bannon scored 16 points to lead Louisville (6-2).
“It’s a great win for them and a bad loss for us,” Pitino said.
At No. 2 Kansas 64, South Carolina 60
Russell Robinson scored four points in the final 36 seconds, allowing the Jayhawks (7-0) to escape with a win over the Gamecocks (5-2), who led most of the game.
South Carolina scored the first 11 points. Kansas didn’t get its first lead until Keith Langford fed Christian Moody inside to make it 54-52 with 5:03 to go.
Wayne Simien had 20 points and 11 rebounds for the Jayhawks.
No. 4 Oklahoma State 79, at UNLV 67
Joey Graham had 20 points, and John Lucas added 17 as the Cowboys (8-0) beat the Rebels (3-4).
Oklahoma State used a 15-0 run early in the first half to take a double-digit lead.
UNLV’s Romel Beck scored 25 points.
At No. 6 Wake Forest 89, No. 14 Texas 88
Chris Paul had 23 points and a career-high 12 assists and Eric Williams added 19 points, helping the Demon Deacons (9-1) hold off the Longhorns (7-2).
Kenton Paulino missed an 18-foot jumper just before the buzzer that would have won it for Texas.
Vytas Danelius, banished to the bench in the previous game, gave Wake Forest the lead for good with a reverse layup in traffic with about 3-1/2 minutes left. The hosts went 6 of 8 on free throws down the stretch to seal it.
P.J. Tucker led the Longhorns with 27 points and 13 rebounds.
No. 7 Duke 78, Oklahoma 67
J.J. Redick scored 26 points to help the Blue Devils (8-0) beat the Sooners (6-2) at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Duke has started 8-0 four times in the last five seasons.
Taj Gray had 18 points and 12 rebounds for the Oklahoma. The Sooners’ first loss was to 18th-ranked Washington at the Great Alaska Shootout.
At No. 8 Syracuse 74, Drexel 54
Hakim Warrick scored 21 points and Darryl Watkins had 14 points and 13 rebounds for his first career double-double as the Orange (9-1) overpowered the Dragons (3-4).
At No. 10 Pittsburgh 73, Coppin State 42
Chris Taft scored 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds as the Panthers (8-0) rolled past the Eagles (2-7).
Carl Krauser added 17 points for the Panthers, who are off to an 8-0 start for the third season in a row.
At No. 16 Iowa 88, Western Carolina 75
Jeff Horner scored 17 of his 20 points in the second half to carry the Hawkeyes (9-1) past the Catamounts (5-7).
David Berghoefer led Western Carolina with an 18-point performance.
At No. 17 Alabama 87, Tennessee State 79
Chuck Davis scored 24 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and blocked seven shots as the Crimson Tide (9-1) defeated the Tigers (5-6).
Alabama led by as many as 25 points in the second half.
At No. 19 George Washington 85, Towson 69
Pops Mensah-Bonsu scored 15 points and Ricky Lucas added 13 of his season-high 14 points in the second half as the Colonials (7-1) beat the Tigers (3-7).
No. 20 Mississippi State 80, at Xavier 74
Winsome Frazier emerged from a shooting slump by scoring 20 points to help the Bulldogs (9-2) beat the Musketeers (2-4). Mississippi State won its 14th straight road game.
At No. 21 Michigan State 63, Delaware State 45
Chris Hill had 14 points, including four three-pointers, and the Spartans (6-2) beat the Hornets (2-6).
Kelvin Torbert added 12 points and Shannon Brown had 10 for Michigan State.
No. 25 Cincinnati 81, Northwestern State 65
Jason Maxiell scored 21 points, including 14 in the second half, as the Bearcats (7-0) beat he Demons (5-5) at the Las Vegas Holiday Classic.
The game was coach Bob Huggins’ 500th at Cincinnati, where he is 381-119.