The crushing full-court press wasn't getting anything done against unflappable Siena. A double-digit lead had evaporated. And, from those black folding chairs on the Louisville bench to the plastic red-and-blue seats all around the arena, it was clear to everyone that 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 his rattled players.
His carefree senior got the message. Terrence Williams rallied the teetering-but-not-toppled Cardinals to a 79-72 victory yesterday in the second round of the NCAA tournament in Dayton, Ohio, 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 No. 12 seed 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 threes, getting rebounds and starting fast breaks with one-handed passes.
Edwin Ubiles scored 24 points for the No. 9 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 layup 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's known as the Cardinals' most carefree player, so when the pressure was on, he was the obvious choice.
"It's pressure if you guys are thinking about it," Williams said. "If it's us, it's not really pressure. We're just playing basketball."
Arizona 71, Cleveland State 57:: Seeded only 12th, the NCAA tournament-regular Wildcats took an early 14-point lead and advanced to the round of 16 by beating the upstart Vikings in Miami.
The Wildcats are appearing in the tournament for the 25th year in a row, two shy of the record. But they've never been seeded so low, and drew criticism as undeserving of a berth.
Now they're bound for the round of 16 for the 12th time since 1988, and they'll be the lowest-seeded team still playing.
Nic Wise scored 21 points to lead four double-figure scorers for the Wildcats (21-13), who earned a trip the regional semifinal in Indianapolis.
"Making it to the Sweet 16 feels great," Chase Budinger said. "We're showing that we're a lot better than what people thought of us."
Bracket-busting Cleveland State (26-11), at No. 13 the lowest-seeded team to reach the second round, was unable to duplicate its improbable run to the regional final in 1986. That's the only other time the Vikings made the tournament.
Cleveland State struggled to solve Arizona's zone defense, shooting 3-for-23 from three-point range and 37 percent overall.
Norris Cole scored 17 points for Cleveland State.
Kansas 60, Dayton 43: : The long arms of Cole Aldrich forced the Flyers down for a rough landing.
Aldrich, the 6-foot-11 Jayhawks sophomore, posted a triple double with 13 points, 20 rebounds and 10 blocked shots to lead the defending NCAA champions past 11th seed Dayton.
"I've been blocking shots since I was a little kid," said Aldrich, who grew up just a few miles away in the suburb of Bloomington. "I was 6 foot in fifth grade. I had a little height advantage, or what have you. That's the one thing I try to do if guys get beat. I just try to go up there and block 'em."
Shaquille O'Neal set the NCAA tournament record with 11 blocks in a game for LSU in 1992. Aldrich's feat was the sixth triple double in the tournament since the NCAA began keeping a list in 1986.
Sherron Collins had 25 points to pace the third-seeded Jayhawks (27-7), who moved on to play Michigan State the regional semifinals Friday in Indianapolis.
Chris Wright had 10 points for Dayton (27-8) which shot a woeful 22.2 percent for the game.
Michigan State 74, Southern California 69: : An unexpected scoring binge from the Big Ten's Defensive Player of the Year propelled the Spartans to the Sweet 16.
Travis Walton scored a career-high 18 points to lift the second-seeded Spartans to a victory over the 10th-seeded Trojans in Minneapolis, putting Michigan State in the round of 16 for the eighth time in 12 years.
"I was shocked that he did make some of those shots. ... There are certain times when guys just step up and do heroic things," Spartans coach Tom Izzo said.
Durell Summers added 11 points and eight rebounds for the Spartans (28-6), who have advanced to the regional semifinals more times in the past dozen years than any team besides Duke.
Dwight Lewis scored 19 points and DeMar DeRozan added 18 for USC (22-13), which is starting to look like more than just a football school under coach Tim Floyd.