Both coaches agreed that the play that ignited seventh-ranked Louisville to its 82-68 victory over No. 14 Bradley was Milt Wagner's block of a jumper by Jim Les when the score was tied midway through the second half at Ogden, Utah.
Louisville Coach Denny Crum, whose Cardinals had just blown a seven-point lead at that point of their NCAA West Regional basketball tournament meeting with Bradley on Saturday, decided to employ a box-and-one defense, putting Wagner on Les.
After blocking the shot, Wagner sank two free throws to make it 57-55. And Louisville (28-7) was off and running.
Wagner, who finished with 16 points, and forward Billy Thompson, who added 14, then scored 12 of Louisville's next 20 points as the Cardinals took a commanding 77-62 lead with 1:23 remaining.
Second-seeded Louisville, in winning its 13th straight game, advanced to the regional semifinal Thursday at The Summit in Houston against North Carolina.
"The box-and-one was a big factor in the game," Bradley Coach Dick Versace said. "The big play was Wagner's great block on Les."
Crum, who said Louisville's depth was the most important factor in the game, said he decided to change his defense from a man-to-man "just to change things up. You go to something like a box-and-one to stop a key player, and obviously Les was their key player."
Wagner's block "really gave us some momentum," Crum added.
Louisville's ability to move the ball inside in the closing minutes allowed the Cardinals to go to the free-throw line, where they sank 11 of 15 shots after the game was tied for the final time, 59-59.
"The team was surprised by the box-and-one," Les said.
That was apparent as the Braves fell victim to cold shooting at the same time Louisville made its run.
Les' 20-foot jumper with three minutes remaining in the game, was the only Braves' field goal over a six-minute span snapped by another jumper by Les with only 36 seconds to go.
Bradley finished the season at 32-3.
North Carolina 77, Alabama Birmingham 59--Junior forward Joe Wolf, who scored 10 points and grabbed a game-high 16 rebounds, hit six straight free throws and had two key assists late in the second half to lead No. 8 Tar Heels.
North Carolina, with center Brad Daugherty and his backup, Warren Martin, saddled with four fouls apiece, led, 54-47, with 9:31 to play when Wolf converted three one-and-one situations in a one-minute span.
That pushed the Tar Heels (28-5) to a 60-49 lead.
Guard Kenny Smith led North Carolina with 17 points, while guard Steve Hale added 16 and Daugherty 13.
Alabama Birmingham (25-11) was led by guard Tracy Foster and forward Anthony Gordon with 10 points each.
UAB cut the lead to 60-51 on two free throws by Eddie Collins with 7:57 to play, but North Carolina took a 65-51 lead on a free throw by Martin and two inside baskets by Curtis Hunter, both on assists from Wolf.
The Tar Heels outrebounded the Blazers, 52-43, with Daugherty getting 13 rebounds for the winners. Gordon and Michael Charles had 11 each for Alabama Birmingham, which shot just 30% from the field and 55% from the free-throw line, including a 3-for-21 performance from the field by guard Steve Mitchell.