proving their point
The Louisville Cardinals
are done whining about their seeding. They'll make their arguments on
the floor instead.
In the final stages of
their final season as a member of Conference USA, the Cards are looking
like a team on a mission, easily swatting aside Georgia Tech on Sunday
to advance to the Sweet 16.
Francisco Garcia scored 18
of his 21 points in the first half and Taquan Dean halted the Yellow
Jackets' last hope with a flurry of 3-pointers, sealing the 76-54
Louisville victory in the Nashville, TN, sub-regional.
The dominating win over
the team that played Connecticut for last season's national championship
sends the Cardinals to the regional semifinals for the first time since
Louisville will move to
the Big East Conference next season. In the meantime, the Cardinals are
playing like a team capable of carrying the C-USA banner to the Final
Four — or better — before bidding adieu to the league they joined as a
charter member in 1995.
``I don't want to tick
anybody off, but somebody told me this is a four seed, you're nuts.
You're absolutely nuts,'' Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt said after his
team's schooling by the Cards. ``They're as good as anybody we've played
Dean finished with 14
points, all but two on 3-pointers, and Larry O'Bannon added 16 for
Louisville (31-4). The Cardinals never trailed, leading by as many as 23
points, and their stifling 2-3 zone limited last year's NCAA title
runner-ups to less than 38 percent shooting.
Luke Schenscher (13) and
Jarrett Jack (11) were the only Yellow Jackets in double figures, and
B.J. Elder was held to just three points on five shots.
As the final seconds
ticked down, the thousands of Cardinals fans who were lining up Saturday
night to buy leftover tickets started chanting ``Sweet 16! Sweet 16!''
Garcia was beaming as he
came out of the game and hugged coach Rick Pitino, who improved to 29-9
in 11 NCAA tournament appearances.
``By far it was our best
performance of the year,'' said Ellis Myles, who had nine points and
eight rebounds. ``Defensively, we dominated. We got out of the gate hot
and we never let them get back into it. That's what you have to do in
The Cardinals thought
they'd locked up a top seed or at least a No. 2 after beating Memphis to
win the C-USA tournament, and they made no secret of their disgust when
they didn't get one. Worse, they drew the fourth seed in the Albuquerque
Regional, behind lightly regarded Washington, Wake Forest and Gonzaga.
Well, Wake and the 'Zags
are done now, relegated to their couches for the rest of the tournament.
And Louisville can prove it really did deserve that top seed, playing
Washington in the regional semifinals next weekend.
``A four seed, I don't buy
it. That's OK. We never focused in on it. We never talked about it
again,'' Pitino said. ``We've done our job and now we're in the Sweet
Besides, if the Cardinals
keep playing like this, their seed isn't going to matter.
``Washington got a bum
steer getting two No. 1s in their bracket because these guys are a No.
1,'' Hewitt said. ``We weren't good enough to beat them. That's why
they're going to move on. That's going to be a good game next week.''
With the way Louisville
was talking before the game, the Cardinals were sounding like they were
the underdogs instead of fifth-seeded Georgia Tech (20-12). But that
misconception ended in a hurry. They shredded Georgia Tech's vaunted
press right from the start, making their first six shots — four from
3-point range — and not missing until the game was 5 1/2 minutes old.
No one was better than
Garcia. He had topped his average by halftime with 18 points on 5-of-8
shooting, including 3-of-5 from 3-point range.
``I'm playing good right
now but so is my teammates, too,'' Garcia said. ``Larry is playing great
and Taquan is playing great. I'm not really focusing on how I'm playing
as long as we win. Like I said yesterday, if I don't score and we win,
Even with Dean only
playing seven minutes because of foul trouble, the Cardinals had a 45-30
lead at halftime. But Louisville had a big first-half lead in last
year's tournament and wound up blowing it, losing 80-70 to Xavier in the
``We talked about that
coming out of halftime. We didn't ever want that feeling again,''
O'Bannon said. ``It's not like we're playing a team with a 200 RPI. We
knew they were going to make a run and we just wanted to make our run.''
That's just what they did.
Bynum and Elder hit
back-to-back 3s to cut Louisville's lead to 52-43 with 9:44 left. It was
the first time Georgia Tech had been within double figures since early
in the first half.
But Juan Palacios made a
pair of free throws and Dean made his own pair of 3s. After Garcia and
Elder traded misses from long range, Dean made another 3. Myles made a
pair of free throws, and Dean capped the run with a layup. Georgia Tech
never threatened again.
``In my head, I didn't see
an ending like this,'' said Elder, one of the five seniors on Georgia
Tech's roster. ``It happens. We came out and played hard, they just came
out and played better than we did.''
02/23/07 10:41 AM
The Associated Press. Bonesville.net contributed to this report. All
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