Louisville, Ky. — The officials were checking TV 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 foul line to cap his 25-point performance and complete the Wildcats' big comeback for a 60-58 victory over their big 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 hit two free throws for Louisville (6-2) 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 pump-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 the fans and players waited, Sparks chomped on 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.
"I try to bring a lot of toughness to the team. That's what leaders do," said Sparks, who also hit five three-pointers.
No. 8 Syracuse 74, Drexel 54
Syracuse, N.Y. -- Hakim Warrick scored 21 points, and Darryl Watkins had 14 points and 13 rebounds for his first career double-double for Syracuse. The Orange (9-1) won their second straight after a loss to No. 4 Oklahoma State.
No 10 Pitt 73, Coppin St. 42
Pittsburgh -- Chris Taft scored 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, helping Pittsburgh remain undefeated. Carl Krauser added 17 points for the Panthers, who are off to an 8-0 start for the third year in a row. Pittsburgh also has won 23 consecutive non-conference games.
No. 15 Arizona 48, Marquette 43
Milwaukee -- With leading scorer Salim Stoudamire benched, Arizona relied on Chris Rodgers' 16 points and key late layup to beat Marquette. It was the Wildcats' lowest scoring output in nearly 20 years. Arizona (7-2) hadn't been held to so few points since a 50-41 loss to Alabama in the 1985 NCAA Tournament.
No. 16 Iowa 88,
Western Carolina 75
Iowa City, Iowa -- Jeff Horner scored 17 of his 20 points in the second half and almost single-handedly broke the game open. Iowa (9-1) led by only seven after a sloppy first half against a team that had lost its four previous games to power conference opponents by an average of 20 points. And Western Carolina (5-7) hung around for a while in the second half.
No. 17 Alabama 87, Tennessee State 79
Tuscaloosa, Ala. -- Chuck Davis scored 24 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and blocked seven shots to lead Alabama. The Crimson Tide (9-1) never trailed and led by as many as 25 points in the second half before Tennessee State rallied late, mostly against reserves. Kennedy Winston scored 19 points for Alabama, while Earnest Shelton had 15.
No. 19 George Washington 85, Towson 69
Washington -- Pops Mensah-Bonsu scored 15 points, and Ricky Lucas added 13 of his season-high 14 points in the second half to help George Washington win its seventh straight. Omar Williams scored 10 of his 12 points in the first 10 minutes of the second half and finished with eight rebounds for the Colonials (7-1). Lawrence Hamm led Towson (3-7) with 18 points. Jonathan Pease added 16 points.
No. 20 Mississippi St. 80, Xavier 74
Cincinnati -- Winsome Frazier emerged from a deep shooting slump by scoring 20 points, and Mississippi State kept its road streak going. The Bulldogs (9-2) won their 14th straight road game, the longest current streak in Division One. Mississippi State shot a season-high 54 percent from the field. Xavier (2-4) has lost three consecutive home games. Freshman Josh Duncan scored 13 points, leading five Xavier players in double figures.
No. 25 Cincinnati 81, Northwestern State 65
Cincinnati -- Jason Maxiell scored 21 points, including 14 in the second half, to lead Cincinnati to the victory in the Las Vegas Holiday Classic. The Bearcats (7-0) are ranked for the first time this season. The game was coach Bob Huggins' 500th at Cincinnati, where he is 381-119. Tramaine Hancock scored 12 points and Clifton Lee added 11 to lead Northwestern State (5-5), which lost its third straight after a five-game winning streak.
No. 21 Michigan State 63, Delaware State 45
East Lansing, Mich. -- Chris Hill had 14 points, including four three-pointers, Kelvin Torbert added 12 points, and Shannon Brown had 10 for the Spartans (6-2). Jahsha Bluntt had 11 points for the Hornets (2-6), who still haven't played a home game. Michigan State shot 52 percent overall and had 13 of its 19 assists in the second half.