CINCINNATI (Ticker) -- For No. 13 Cincinnati, a loss to No. 19 Louisville was all about missed opportunities.
Taquan Dean scored 25 points and Larry O'Bannon added 18 as the Cardinals posted a 69-66 triumph over the mistake-prone Bearcats in a Conference USA matchup.
Cincinnati (14-2, 3-1 C-USA) endured its first conference loss but felt it gave away the game, missing 13 of 30 free throws and breaking down defensively down the stretch. In the final 65 seconds, Louisville got a tip-in by Ellis Myles and a wide-open layup by O'Bannon.
"You can't go 17-of-30 from the line against a team that good," Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins said. "It's demoralizing. Down the stretch, we went 1-of-4 from the foul line, it de-energizes you a bit. We have to make free throws; you can't keep coming up empty."
Almost as painful as the misses from the line were the late breakdowns. Myles swooped in for his tip that snapped a tie with 65 seconds left and Francisco Garcia - who had a season-low seven points - took advantage of a breakdown to find O'Bannon for a layup that put the Cardinals ahead, 69-66, with 12 seconds to go.
"It was a defensive breakdown, obviously someone lost their man," Cincinnati guard Nick Williams said. "The game should not have come down to that."
"(Garcia) is a great player," Huggins said. "Did we do our job? He made the play that won the game. We had breakdowns and we fell asleep."
Louisville (14-3, 3-1 C-USA), rallied from a 14-point deficit early in the second half and improved to 20-2 in January under coach Rick Pitino over the last three years.
"This was a (heck) of a basketball game," Pitino said. "We had to battle down from a major deficit on the road and you have to have tough kids to do that."
Williams got the start for Cincinnati and responded with 18 points, all on 3-pointers. James White added 15 points but Jason Maxiell, who had been hot of late, had just 11 and took only four shots.
Louisville held a 42-30 rebounding edge and took a 48-37 edge in the all-time series despite scoring a season-low 24 points in the opening half.
The Cardinals appeared to be in for a long game as the Bearcats scored the first 10 points. Jihad Muhammad had five points in the burst, which was capped by a 3-pointer by White 2:30 into the contest.
Cincinnati pushed its lead to 17 points with 7:28 left in the half and led, 35-24, at the break. White opened the second half with a 3-pointer before Louisville used a 7-0 run to get back in the contest.
Maxiell, who was averaging 20.4 points over his last five contests, was just 2-of-4 from the field and 7-of-13 from the line. He also grabbed just two rebounds in 37 minutes.