MEMPHIS, Tennessee (Ticker) -- Darius Washington Jr. had a chance to send Memphis to the NCAA Tournament. He could not come through at the foul line.
Washington could only make one of three free throws with no time on the clock as sixth-ranked Louisville escaped with a thrilling 75-74 victory in the Conference USA championship game.
"The kid is distraught over the three free throws and I told him he kept us in the game," Memphis coach John Calipari said.
Washington, who carried the Tigers with 18 of his 23 points in the second half, was fouled by Francisco Garcia as he missed an off-balanced 3-pointer from the top of the key at the buzzer.
The freshman guard made the first free throw but missed the next two, allowing Louisville (29-4) to go out as a winner in its final season in Conference USA.
"That happens," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said of the missed free throws. "It's not easy being on the line like that."
Even after committing the foul, Garcia was able to keep his sense of humor.
"He's maybe the funniest guy I ever coached," Pitino added. "He said, 'Coach what were you thinking? Were you going to get your people after me?' I said, 'Francisco, I'm Italian-American, not a member of the Sopranos.'"
Garcia scored 19 points and Juan Palacios and Taquan Dean added 14 apiece for the Cardinals, who move to the Big East Conference next season. Louisville has won nine straight games and 18 of its last 19.
Memphis (19-15), the only team to beat Louisville during its run, played in its first Conference USA title game and was trying to win its fourth game in as many days.
Washington's layup had given the Tigers a 73-71 lead with 42 seconds remaining, but Louisville answered on Larry O'Bannon's 3-pointer with 27 seconds left. It was the Cardinals' 15th 3-pointer, tying a Conference USA tournament record.
The local start time of 10:30 a.m. had no affect on Louisville's shooting as the Cardinals shot a sizzling 65 percent (15-of-23) from the arc and 51 percent overall (25-of-49).
O'Bannon, who scored 13 points, also was fouled by Arthur Barclay but could not complete the four-point play. On the other end, Memphis' Jeremy Hunt was called for an offensive foul with 7.7 seconds left.
Seldom-used Brad Gianiny, who had been 8-of-8 from the line this season, hit 1-of-2 from the line a second later for Louisville, setting up the final possession as Washington raced up court.
"I went over to Darius and consoled him," Calipari said. "He was probably off a quarter-inch on the second one. The last shot, the pressure was on him, and to make that shot would have been amazing."
After an offensive-minded first half ended in a 41-41 tie, the defenses settled in during the second half. The Cardinals grabbed a 64-58 advantage on O'Bannon's 3-pointer with 12:54 remaining.
The Tigers took a 67-64 lead in the seesaw contest on Washington's runner in the lane with 4:51 remaining. The Cardinals held the Tigers scoreless for more than three minutes, grabbing a 71-67 lead on Garcia's two free throws with 1:42 to go.
Washington's three-point play pulled Memphis within a point before the Tigers tied it on a free throw by Hunt with 49 seconds to play.
After Irwin stripped Dean in the backcourt, Washington grabbed the loose ball and scored on a layup to give the Tigers their final lead.
Anthony scored 20 points and Duane Erwin and Hunt contributed 10 apiece for Memphis.