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O'Bannon scores career-high 33 points in victory

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Larry O'Bannon turned his final home game
into the biggest night of his career.

The Louisville native scored a career-high 33 points -- 26 in the
first half -- to help No. 9 Louisville clinch a share of the
Conference USA regular-season title with a 94-82 victory over No.
18 Charlotte on Thursday night.

"Your hometown fans are going to remember you in your last
game," O'Bannon said. "I didn't know it was going to be like
that."

The 6-foot-4 O'Bannon, one of three seniors playing in Freedom
Hall for the last time, tied a school record for points in a half,
hitting his first five 3-pointers.

"Larry O'Bannon had a very, very special night," Louisville
coach Rick Pitino said. "It was a Hollywood ending for a nice
young man."

Junior Taquan Dean made six 3-pointers and added 27 points for
Louisville (25-4, 13-2 Conference USA), which clinched the top seed
in next week's league tournament in Memphis, Tenn.

Dean, diagnosed with mononucleosis in late February, missed a
career high by four points.

"I wasn't feeling it, I was exhausted," Dean said. "Once I
hit a couple of shots, then things started to go."

Ellis Myles had a career-high 10 assists for the Cardinals, who
can secure their first outright regular-season Conference USA
championship with a victory at DePaul on Saturday.

Myles, a fifth-year senior, is the last holdover from the Denny
Crum era. He has never played in the NCAA tournament after missing
last season to recover from a knee injury he suffered the previous
year.

"It was a very emotional night for me and the team," Myles
said. "Nobody thought I would make it this far."

But the night belonged to O'Bannon, who took over the game
during a fast-paced, competitive first half.

Constantly finding gaps in Charlotte's defense, the Louisville
native was 9-of-10 from the field in the opening 20 minutes and
scored eight points during a half-ending 16-4 run.

"I just hit my first couple of 3s and my teammates started
looking for me," O'Bannon said. "I do it every day in practice. I
guess it just carried over."

Brendan Plavich, guarded by O'Bannon much of the game, hit seven
3-pointers and scored 28 points for the 49ers (21-5, 12-3), who had
a seven-game winning streak snapped.

O'Bannon's game overshadowed an impressive shooting display by
Plavich, who came into the game second in the nation in 3-pointers
per game. Plavich made five 3-pointers in the first half, two of
them from 30 feet.

"He was shooting from half-court, it seemed like," Dean said.
"That's kind of hard to stop."

Plavich's fourth 3-pointer gave Charlotte a 25-24 lead, but
O'Bannon answered with a 3-pointer a minute later and Louisville
never trailed again.

Charlotte coach Bobby Lutz, angered when E.J. Drayton was
whistled for fouling O'Bannon, drew a technical foul with 10.1
seconds left in the half. Francisco Garcia and O'Bannon hit two
free throws apiece to boost the lead to 13 by halftime.

The cold-shooting 49ers never made a move in the second half,
going 5 minutes without a field goal during one stretch.

O'Bannon, who scored a career high 30 against Marquette in
January, cooled off in the second half, missing three shots. But he
set a new career high with a reverse layup with 6:04 left. He was
fouled on the play and hit the free throw as the crowd chanted
"Lar-ree! Lar-ree!"

O'Bannon left the floor with 1:01 to go, waving to the fans and
embracing teammates as the chant resumed.

"You couldn't ask for anything better," he said. "I never
thought of a night like this. You don't dream it up."

The 49ers made 13 3-pointers but shot 36 percent overall (24 of
66), their lowest output in four games.

"It was obviously a very difficult night for us," Lutz said.
"We knew we had to play really well with everything to have a
chance to win. Obviously, we fell short of that."

Before tipoff, a video montage chronicled the careers of
seniors Otis George, Ellis Myles and O'Bannon and Garcia, a junior
who will leave for the NBA after this season. Pitino gave a framed
jersey to each player.

"Without those guys, we're nothing," Pitino said.