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C-USA: MVP Whitehead carries Louisville

The junior forward's free throws give the Cardinals their first tournament title, 83-78 over UAB.

©Associated Press

March 16, 2003

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Louisville forward Luke Whitehead set a record with 37 rebounds in the tournament, but none was as important as the last one. The 6-foot-7 junior rebounded after Eric Bush missed a layup, then hit two free throws with 4.7 seconds left to clinch Louisville's 83-78 win over Alabama-Birmingham in the championship game Saturday.

Whitehead finished with 17 points and 14 rebounds, his third double double in three games.

As Whitehead stepped to the free-throw line, the home crowd of 17,202, a record for the tournament's championship game, started chanting, "MVP! MVP!"

Whitehead was later named the tournament's most valuable player.

"If I would've had however many rebounds and we would've lost the game, I would not have been the MVP," Whitehead said. "It's not about the personal awards. It's all about winning."

Taquan Dean added 15 points and Francisco Garcia had 14 for No. 20 Louisville (24-6), which won its first C-USA tournament title.

"I'm really impressed with our basketball team," said Louisville coach Rick Pitino, in his second season with the Cardinals. "When I had the first day of practice two years ago, I never could have dreamed of this day."

Morris Finley scored 20, and Demario Eddins had 18 points and 12 rebounds for the Blazers (19-12), who led by six early in the second half but finally showed the effects from playing four games in four days.

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