LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Mirror, mirror, on the wall, apparently Memphis is the fairest of them all.
The Tigers walked out of the KFC Yum! Center with a 73-67 victory over Louisville on Thursday night. A day after Rick Pitino called the teams mirror images of each other, the Louisville coach probably didn't like what he saw.
No. 8 Louisville (13-3, 2-1 American Athletic Conference) dropped to 0-3 against ranked teams (North Carolina and Kentucky being the other losses). Meanwhile, No. 22 Memphis (11-3, 2-1) continued to build its NCAA tournament résumé with its second victory over a Top 25 team (it split two with Oklahoma State).
BOX SCORE: Memphis 73, Louisville 67
"It's the same story after every ranked opponent," Louisville forward Montrezl Harrell said. "We have to go into every game ready to play defense. I feel like tonight we only played offense. Tonight, we got exposed for that."
The Tigers took the lead for good when Geron Johnson made two free throws with 1:24 left to make the score 68-67. After Lousville's Russ Smith missed on a drive in traffic underneath the basket, Memphis scored in a disputed way. It appeared that Joe Jackson might have been fouled with 40 seconds left, but instead Harrell was called for goaltending on a shot that had barely left Jackson's hand.
That made it 70-67, and the mostly white-clad crowd booed lustily. Luke Hancock tried to bail out the Cardinals, but his 3-point try bounced high off the rim and hit the backboard support, giving possession to the Tigers. Jackson was fouled and missed his first first free throw, but made the second for a 71-67 cushion with 18.4 seconds left.
The Cardinals then threw the ball away, and Shaq Goodwin punctuated the victory with a dunk in the final second.
The crowd continued to boo, singling out Memphis coach Josh Pastner, who came dangerously close to getting a technical during the game when he removed his jacket in frustration and appeared ready to throw it. Before doing his postgame radio show, he and a fan got into a shouting match.
The fan yelled, "Your players are low class!" Pastner shot back that his players "had a perfect APR score!"
Hancock led Louisville with a season-high 20 points — two short of his career high — and Smith added 19.
Jackson and Goodwin had 15 points each for Memphis, which shot 50.9% against the Cardinals' zone. The Cardinals shot just 39.1% and didn't take their first lead until early in the second half.
PHOTOS: BEST OF THE WEEK AROUND COLLEGE BASKETBALL
The Tigers scored the game's first six points and never flinched, though Hancock did his Final Four-best to keep Louisville in the game. He scored 14 points in the first half, continuing his best stretch of the season after a slow start. His basket tied the score at 25, but Chris Crawford answered with a 3-pointer.
Then came the most interesting sequence of the first half. Stephan Van Treese blocked Goodwin's shot, but on Memphis' next possession, Goodwin got a breakaway dunk for a 30-25 lead. Jackson's basket gave the Tigers their biggest lead at 32-25 with 3:38 left in the half.
Smith answered with a 3-pointer, and after a Van Treese deflection led to a Memphis turnover, Terry Rozier drilled a three to pull the Cardinals within 34-33. But the Tigers got a basket from Michael Dixon Jr., and Jones missed badly on a deep jumper at the buzzer.
"Our defense is not as good this year," said Pitino, who spoke for less than four minutes. "It hasn't been. I don't want to keep beating that horse to death, but it hasn't been. About three key situations we were in control of our own destiny, we got in the wrong defense and then ran out of it and gave up a 3. It may be the most bone-headed play I've ever seen in my life."
Memphis shot 46.9% in the first half. Liouisville made only 13-of-36 shots, and only Hancock (6-of-9) and Rozier (3-of-3) made at least half of their shots.
The battle of former Memphis high school rivals never emerged. Jones was 0-for-4 and scoreless in the first half after missing practice earlier in the week with a tweaked ankle. Jackson had four points on 2-of-7 shooting.
Michael Grant writes for The Courier-Journal in Louisville, a Gannett affiliate.