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Garcia, Cards pushed to the limit

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By The Associated Press

CINCINNATI — Francisco Garcia scored 22 points, making clutch shots on an aching ankle, and Louisville beat East Carolina 61-54 Wednesday in the first round of the Conference USA tournament.

Louisville (20-8) overcame 19 turnovers and poor shooting as it advanced to a second-round game against Cincinnati, one of five teams that shared the conference's regular-season title.

Garcia, who has sprained both ankles this season and plays with them heavily taped, had to come out of the game twice after aggravating them in the second half.

He managed to stay on the floor long enough to decide the game. Garcia scored seven points a 12-2 spurt that put Louisville ahead to stay with 7:50 left in the game.

Mike Cook scored 14 points for East Carolina (13-14), which shot 33 percent from the field against one of the nation's top defenses.

Neither team could put together much of a run because of the turnovers and off-target shots. Both teams were shooting under 35 percent from the field and had 15 turnovers apiece with 9 minutes left.

Louisville made only three jumpers in the first half - the rest of its 21 points came off layups. In a defining moment, East Carolina guard Japhet McNeil shot a floating jumper that sailed over the backboard.

Garcia had a 3-pointer and a fastbreak layup as Louisville ran out to an 8-1 lead, then got extremely careless. The Cardinals had four rapid-fire turnovers - Garcia lost control on a drive to the basket and accidentally kicked it out of bounds to end one possession.

At one point, Pitino repeatedly smacked the sole of his shoe on the floor and screamed, "Move it! Move it!" as his team stood around on offense. He whirled in disgust after Larry O'Bannon then forced an errant 3-pointer.


Brian Bailey goes 1-on-1 with ECU coach Bill Herrion after the Pirates' hard-fought loss to heavily favored Louisville:
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U of L coach Rick Pitino meets with the media after the Cards out-struggled ECU to advance in the C-USA Tournament:
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Pitino's had a grim expression as he walked toward the locker room at halftime, passing Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins, who was scouting from the second row of the media section.

After Louisville missed a shot, had a turnover and gave up an uncontested putback in the opening 53 seconds of the second half, Pitino immediately called a full timeout and berated his team in the huddle.

It didn't work. The game remained stagnant until Garcia took over.

He had a putback that started a five-point spurt, but hit the floor after the shot and reinjured an ankle. Leading rebounder Luke Whitehead, also severely limited by a sprained ankle, got tangled up on the play and came up limping severely, but stayed in the game.

Garcia returned a few minutes later and had a 3-pointer, two free throws and a driving bank shot in a 2-minute, 15-second span as Louisville pulled ahead 46-40. He hurt the ankle again in a loose-ball pileup and left the game.

Whitehead made only one basket, but it was important - a baseline jumper with 55 seconds left that kept Louisville in control.


Louisville 61, East Carolina 54

Records: ECU 13-14, ; U of L 20-8.

East Carolina 54
Player             FG      FT     PTS

Badiane          5-13     2-4      12
Wiley            5-12     0-3      10
Rouse             1-1     0-0       2
Robinson          2-2     3-4       7
Bing              1-9     4-5       6
Rivers            1-6     0-0       3
McNeil            0-1     0-0       0
Cook             5-16     3-4      14
Totals          20-60   12-20      54

Louisville 61
Player             FG      FT     PTS

Dartez            3-8     2-2       8
Garcia           8-17     4-4      22
George            1-2     0-0       2
Dean              2-7     0-0       6
Mohammed          2-3     1-2       5
Tinch             0-0     0-0       0
Jenkins           1-1     0-0       2
Whitehead         1-2     0-0       2
Daniels           1-3     0-0       3
O'Bannon          1-6     8-8      11
Totals          20-49   15-16      61

Halftime: Louisville 21, East Carolina 20.

3-point goals: East Carolina 2-14 (Badiane 0-1, Wiley 0-1, Bing 0-4, Rivers 1-5, Cook 1-3); Louisville 6-20 (Garcia 2-7, Dean 2-6, Daniels 1-3, O'Bannon 1-4).

Fouled out: None.

Rebounds: 37 (Bing 13); Louisville 35 (Dartez 10).

Assists: East Carolina 7 (McNeil 3); Louisville 10 (George, Dean, O'Bannon 2).

Total fouls: East Carolina 18, Louisville 18.

Technical fouls:

Attendance: na.

02/23/07 11:01 AM

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


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