Louisville, KY (SportsNetwork.com) - Montrezl Harrell wouldn't let Louisville lose a third straight game, with the star forward amassing 21 points and 14 rebounds to help rally the 12th-ranked Cardinals to a needed 55-53 victory over Miami-Florida.
Louisville (21-6, 9-5 ACC) trailed by as many as 13 points in the first half but prevailed behind huge efforts by Harrell and the reinstated Chris Jones after the break.
Harrell racked up 12 points, including the go-ahead free throws with 35.6 remaining, and eight boards in the second half. Jones, suspended for the Cardinals' 69-59 loss at Syracuse on Wednesday, returned to deposit 14 of his 17 points following the intermission.
"Chris amazed me," Cardinals head coach Rick Pitino said. "Chris and Montrezl both, because of how hard they had to work the whole game. Their conditioning is amazing."
The Cardinals pulled it out despite shooting just 33.9 percent, struggling offensively for much of the day much like they did in recent setbacks to NC State and the Orange.
Miami (17-10, 7-7) received 17 points from Shannon McClellan and a monster 13- point, 15-rebound effort from Tonye Jekiri, but was held to a 33.3 percent field goal rate in the second half after leading 29-19 midway through.
A back-and-forth game in which neither team was ahead by more than three points over the final 14 minutes went right down to the wire. The Hurricanes were clinging to a 53-52 edge when Jones drove the lane and dished to Harrell, who was fouled underneath by Jekiri and sank both shots for the fifth lead change of the second half.
Miami's Deandre Burnett then fell down while dribbling on the ensuing possession, with Harrell collecting the loose ball and making 1-of-2 from the line for a 55-53 advantage with 10.1 seconds on the clock.
The Hurricanes went for the win as the final time ticked off, but Angel Rodriguez's 3-point try at the buzzer landed well short to deny Miami a profile-enhancing triumph.
"We just have to have better execution before that play," said McClellan. "If we got a stop before the foul or the rebound, we would not have been in that situation."
Louisville got off to a dreadful offensive start and shot just 29.2 percent for the first half, but opened the second on a 17-3 run to claim a 36-32 lead.
Jones began the surge with five quick points and Harrell and Wayne Blackshear each drained triples during the flurry, which Jones capped with a trey with 14:38 remaining.
"In the second half, I said, 'Let's just play defense every possession. We will win the game'," Pitino remarked.
The Hurricanes answered shortly afterward, hitting three straight shots to move back in front by a 41-38 count midway through the second half.
Louisville cut the lead to one on five different occasions, but Miami responded each time. The Cardinals finally got over the hump when Jones buried a step-back jumper for a 50-49 lead with 3:06 to go, with the game remaining razor-tight from there.
The shooting woes that plagued Louisville in its previous two defeats continued during the early stages of this one as well. The Cardinals misfired on 10 of their first 11 field goal attempts, while Miami started out a scorching 7-of-10 from the floor while jumping out to a 16-4 lead just over six minutes in.
Harrell's putback briefly ended Louisville's drought, but McClellan knocked down a 3-pointer on the other end to put the Hurricanes up 19-6 with 12:30 left in the opening half.
The Cardinals did close out the stanza on a high note, with Jones burying a triple to trim Miami's advantage to 29-19 at the break.
Louisville avoided its first three-game skid since Jan. 19-26, 2013 ... Miami lost for the first time in 11 games this season when McClellan shot better than 50 percent from the floor. He finished 7-of-13 ... The Cardinals have now won five straight in the series, including a 63-55 decision in Coral Gables on Feb. 3 ... Terry Rozier, Louisville's leading scorer at 17.6 points per game coming in, managed just six points on 3-of-15 shooting.