The University of the Incarnate Word Cardinals usually play in front of no more than 700 fans in their hometown of San Antonio, but playing in front of over 10,000 fans at Nebraska’s Pinnacle Bank Arena did not faze Kyle Hittle and his squad. Hittle made an unbelievable shot with 3.2 seconds left to beat the Cornhuskers 74-73 in one of the biggest upsets in college hoops this season.
The Cardinals made the jump to Division I in 2013, but have handled it very well. Incarnate Word went 21-6 in their first year as a Division I program and are 6-1 this year, with wins at Princeton and Nebraska. Wednesday night’s game was their first game against a team from one of the Big Five conferences in the nation.
The Cardinals were down 10 points with 13 minutes left Wednesday night but head coach Ken Burmeister wasn’t ready to give up.
"Down 10, up 10, the way we shoot 3's I don't think you are ever out of a game," he told ESPN, "and I don't think you ever have a game won because of the way we play.
The Cardinals are shooting 41 percent from the three point arc and consider it a big part of their game. They made eight 3’s against the Cornhuskers, including 3-of-4 for Hittle.
Hittle finished the game with 18 points, while freshman Jontrell Walker had a game-high, 19 points.
Incarnate Word found themselves down by three with 23 seconds left when freshman Shawn Johnson stole the Cornhuskers pass and attempted a three-pointer as he got fouled and made two of three. Nebraska had a one point lead with 6.7 seconds and the ball, but Terran Petteway inbounded the ball out of bounds to give the Cardinals another chance. Incarnate Word’s Mitch Badillo then inbounded the ball to Hittle who shot the ball over two defenders near the baseline.
"I don't know how he shot it," Burmeister said. "It looked to me like it was over the backboard, and he got hit pretty good. When the ball went in, that was happy. That was happiness."
Hittle’s game-winner helps Incarnate Word in many more ways than just the standings.
"It's a great school, great campus, and the people across the street don't even know we exist," Burmeister said. "For us to do this is great for our program, but it might be greater for the university in the future."