NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- The Louisville Cardinals are done
whining about their seeding. They're making all their arguments on
Francisco Garcia scored 18 of his 21 points in the first half
and Taquan Dean halted Georgia Tech's last hope with a flurry of
3-pointers, sealing a 76-54 victory that sent Louisville to the
regional semifinals for the first time since 1997.
"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. "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 and led by as many as 23 points, and their stifling 2-3
zone limited last year's NCAA title runner-ups to less than 38
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 this tournament."
The Cardinals thought they'd locked up a top seed or at least a
No. 2 after beating Memphis to win the Conference 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 16."
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 5½ 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
"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, I'm happy."
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 first round.
"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
"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