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No. 8 Cards shake off Gabe-less Pirates

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GREENVILLE — A game that prior to tip-off had all the elements of an embarrassing blowout on national television instead will go down in the books as a respectable loss for a short-handed but unyielding East Carolina team.

The Pirates, who lost linchpin senior Gabriel Mikulas to a season-ending injury the day before, fended off every knockout blow Louisville could muster Thursday night before finally succumbing 76-66 in front of the ESPN2 cameras.

Still, it was the No. 8 Cardinals' show from the stumbling start to the business-like finish.

Louisville coach Rick Pitino tripped over a tumbling mat heading out to the court before the game. His team was decidedly more steady.

Taquan Dean and Larry O'Bannon each scored 16 points and U of L's swarming defense forced 16 turnovers in a 76-66 victory over the Pirates.

The Cardinals (12-1, 3-0 Conference USA) won their 12th consecutive game and fifth straight by double digits. Louisville is second nationally in scoring margin at over 23 points per game.

Pitino, who chuckled after the near fall as the crowd laughed, disappeared from the locker room almost immediately after the game and was unavailable for comment, according to a Louisville official.

His team was happy to do the talking for him.

``We've got 12 wins in a row now, we won on the road,'' said Francisco Garcia, who finished with 11 points and seven rebounds. ``It's a big win. They've got a great crowd. They were in the game the whole 40 minutes.''

Derrick Wiley scored 23 points for East Carolina (8-5, 0-3), which lost its ninth consecutive conference game dating to last season.

The Pirates improvised without second-leading scorer Mikulas, a power forward who broke his arm during practice on Wednesday. Erroyl Bing, usually East Carolina's top sub, started in his place and had nine points.

East Carolina could have used Mikulas at the start of the second half. Dean made consecutive 3-pointers and O'Bannon had a steal and a dunk as Louisville started the second half with a 10-0 run to take a 48-28 lead.

``Our whole game plan was to keep them out of the lane and we did that the first five minutes, after that we did not do that,'' Louisville assistant coach Kevin Willard said about the second half. ``In this arena and in this type of atmosphere, the first five minutes was big for us.''

At crunch time, the Pirates got within eight points in the final 2 minutes but couldn't complete the comeback. Dean hit three free throws and Alhaji Mohammed had a key dunk to help ice the game for Louisville.

It was the fourth straight loss for the Pirates, who have committed 73 turnovers during their losing streak. They didn't help themselves at the free throw line, going 11-of-18.

``What we've got to get away from in this league is playing from behind,'' East Carolina coach Bill Herrion said. ``You just expend so much energy playing from behind, these teams are just too talented.''

Both teams struggled shooting early, but Louisville was just a little better. Otis George hit a jumper and Nate Daniels made a 3-pointer to help the Cardinals take a 34-22 lead with 4:11 left in the first half.

Louisville had a 38-28 halftime lead behind Garcia's nine points. The Cardinals harassed the Pirates into shooting 9-of-29 from the field.

Louisville wasn't much better, shooting 38 percent but the Cardinals were 6-of-16 on 3-pointers before halftime.

The Pirates dropped to 3-37 all-time against ranked opponents and 2-2 against the Top Ten.

ECU will get little rest before its next game. The Pirates are scheduled to board a plane Friday for a trip to Texas and an 8:30 p.m. Saturday game against the Houston Cougars.


No. 8 Louisville 76, East Carolina 66

Records: East Carolina 8-5, 0-3; Louisville 12-1, 3-0.

Player             FG      FT     PTS

Whitehead        4-13     1-2       9
Garcia           3-10     4-4      11
Dartez            1-7     3-3       5
Dean              3-6     7-7      16
O'Bannon         4-13     5-6      16
Jenkins           2-4     0-0       5
Mohammed          2-2     0-0       4
Johnson           0-1     0-0       0
Daniels           1-2     0-0       3
George            3-5     1-1       7
Totals          23-63   21-23      76

Player             FG      FT     PTS

Wiley            9-19     4-4      23
Bing              3-6     2-4       9
Badiane           1-5     1-2       3
Rivers            3-7     0-0       9
McNeil            1-5     2-4       4
Robinson          0-1     0-0       0
Rouse             2-4     0-0       4
Cook             4-10     2-4      12
Grindley          1-1     0-0       2
Totals          24-58   11-18      66

Halftime: Louisville 38-28.

3-point goals: Louisville 9-28 (Dean 3-6, O'Bannon 3-10, Daniels 1-2, Jenkins 1-3, Garcia 1-6, Whitehead 0-1); East Carolina 7-17 (Rivers 3-6, Cook 2-4, Bing 1-2, Wiley 1-3, McNeil 0-1, Rouse 0-1.

Fouled out: Garcia.

Rebounds: Louisville 42 (Whitehead 10); East Carolina 37 (Bing 9).

Assists: Louisville 13 (Whitehead 4); East Carolina 7 (McNeil 2).

Total fouls: Louisville 21, East Carolina 20.


Attendance: 7,553.

02/23/07 11:00 AM

From Associated Press reports with staff contributions. Copyright 2004. All rights rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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