LOUISVILLE, Ky. - After Troy Caupain missed a layup with little more than a minute left in regulation, all of his Cincinnati teammates came up to him in the next huddle and told him, "It's over. Forget it.''
A minute later, he got another chance, and it was one to remember. He scored on a drive at the buzzer in regulation, and his team's season was not over. The Bearcats went on to beat Purdue, 66-65, in overtime Thursday night in their NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional opener.
Farad Cobb's layup with 28 seconds left in OT put the Bearcats up by three, and Purdue's Vince Edwards missed a three at the buzzer. But the key play was the one made by Caupain, a sophomore, in regulation.
"It was wonderful,'' he said. "When I came off the screen, it was a wide-open lane and I knew I at least had a chance to get it up on the rim. Once it was rolling around the rim, I stopped, I bent down a little bit, and when the buzzer went off, I just smiled.''
Cincinnati had to make the ultimate adjustment during the season, a change in coaches. Assistant Larry Davis was an emergency replacement for Mick Cronin, who was diagnosed with arterial dissection, a serious vascular condition.
Cronin still has been involved with scouting and recruiting. And cheering. He was here to watch and offer vocal and emotional support. He seemed in good spirits in the locker room Wednesday. "It's not bittersweet. It's just sweet,'' he said, "because this program is bigger than just one person.''
He joked about using the office here of his former boss, Rick Pitino. He also mentioned that he ran into another coach whom he once assisted, Bob Huggins of West Virginia. "I told him, 'I worked for you and I worked for Rick Pitino. The Good Lord said, 'Son, you need to take two months off.' ''
Cincinnati seemed in trouble early in the second half when big man Octavius Ellis was ejected for throwing an elbow to the neck of Purdue's A.J. Hammons.
Cincinnati (23-10) was in much deeper water when it trailed by seven with 48.5 seconds left. But Kevin Johnson hit a three and Purdue (21-13) began committing turnovers and missing free throws. Jon Octeus missed two of three in the final 28 seconds, which left the Boilermakers up by two with 7.4 left.
Caupain dribbled, waited for an opening, drove to the hoop and -- like all the Cincinnati fans in the arena -- held his breath as the ball bounced around the rim and fell in right at the buzzer.
"The momentum, we had it the whole game,'' Hammons said. "We just couldn't finish it off.''