PHOENIX (AP) — Hated to do that to ya, kid.
Rick Pitino nearly came unhinged and his point guard watched the end of the game from the bench. When it was over, though, it was Pitino and Louisville making plans for the Final Four and his protege, Billy Donovan, and the Florida Gators wondering what the heck happened.
Chane Behanan made the go-ahead basket with 1:04 left Saturday and the fourth-seeded Cardinals finished the game on a 23-8 run for a 72-68 victory over Donovan’s stunned Florida team in the West Regional final.
Russ Smith followed Behanan’s bucket with a pair of free throws and then Florida freshman Bradley Beal and teammate Kenny Boynton each missed chances to tie.
Louisville made one more free throw to seal the game and reach its ninth Final Four, and second under Pitino, despite playing the final 3:58 without point guard Peyton Siva, who fouled out.
Florida (26-11) went out in the regional final for the second straight year, with Donovan falling to 0-7 lifetime against the man who coached him at Providence, hired him as an assistant at Kentucky and felt as proud as a papa when he watched Donovan win his two national titles in 2006 and 2007.
This was no heartwarmer, though.
Donovan got under Pitino’s skin early in the second half during a timeout when he worked over the officials, who promptly called a foul against the Cardinals (30-9) when play resumed.
“He called that,” Pitino shouted. “Why don’t you just give him a whistle?”
Pitino couldn’t get a break for a while after that and eventually was whistled for a technical foul. Erving Walker made four straight free throws and the Gators led by 11.
But the team that went 8 for 11 from 3-point range in the first half went cold — really cold — not hitting any of nine attempts from beyond the arc in the second.
The Gators missed seven shots and committed one turnover over the last 2:30. They didn’t score after Boynton’s layup gave them a 68-66 lead with 2:39 left.
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