Thursday, March 11, 2004

Cards hold off pesky Pirates


Hit key shots in 2nd half to win and set up meeting with UC

By Kevin Kelly
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The next day's opponent sat conspicuously at one end of the basketball court Wednesday.

Playing before a decidedly cardinal-tinged crowd, and a University of Cincinnati team it will now play in the quarterfinals of the Conference USA Tournament, No. 6-seeded Louisville beat 11th-seeded East Carolina 61-54 Wednesday at U.S. Bank Arena.

"We've always had great respect for Cincinnati," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "I don't know who wouldn't be a challenge (in this league).

"You could play UAB. You could play Memphis. You could play DePaul. Who wouldn't be a challenge?"

East Carolina certainly was.

The Pirates, who were beaten by Louisville by 10 points in mid-January, stayed close by mirroring the Cardinals' attacking style.

"These guys gave a great effort," East Carolina coach Bill Herrion said. "If these guys are guilty of anything, it's maybe trying too hard to win the basketball game. There's nothing wrong with that."

Louisville entered the conference tournament having lost seven of its last 10 games, but has now won three of its past four.

Today's game will mark the third meeting between Louisville and UC this season. The Cardinals won the first contest 93-66 on Jan. 21 at Freedom Hall. Cincinnati won the rematch 66-61 on February 21 at the Shoemaker Center.

"We've had a (heck of a) year," Pitino said. "This is just the beginning for us. Hopefully we'll get a little healthier."

Wednesday's first half was a forgettable display, but the Cardinals held a one-point lead, 21-20, at the break.

Louisville and East Carolina shot a combined 37 percent from the field, 15.8 percent from beyond the three-point arc and had only four second-chance points during the game's first 20 minutes.

In the second half, East Carolina held a two-point lead with 10:05 remaining.

Sophomore forward Francisco Garcia, who led all scorers with 22 points, made a three-pointer to give the Cardinals a 39-38 lead with 9:32 remaining, and the team never relinquished it.

"We basically have quickness and are not very strong defensively," Pitino said of his Cardinals, who forced 17 turnovers. "We get pushed around quite a bit. So we have to play with heart and guts, and that's what they do.

"All season long we've taken on one of the most difficult schedules I've ever coached, and we've just stayed upbeat and positive."

E-mail kkelly@enquirer.com

E.CAROLINA (13-14)

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 (20-8)

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, E. Carolina 20. 3-point goals-E. 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-E. Carolina 37 (Bing 13), Louisville 35 (Dartez 10). Assists-E. Carolina 7 (McNeil 3), Louisville 10 (George, Dean, O'Bannon 2). Total fouls-TCU 18, Louisville 18. A-(NA).




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