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LOUISVILLE 93, WASHINGTON 79: The Cardinals, a surprise No. 4 seed, make case vs. a team trying to justify a No. 1.
Published March 25, 2005
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Rick Pitino pushed all the right buttons, and Francisco Garcia and Taquan Dean made all the tough shots.
The result for Louisville was a 93-79 victory over top-seeded Washington, putting the Cardinals in the Albuquerque Region final and turning their insulting fourth seed into little more than an afterthought.
"That's not something we think about," forward Larry O'Bannon said. "Coach tells us, "You've got to go out there and play the game,' so we just go out there and play."
Taking advantage of Pitino's instruction to penetrate, then kick the ball out, Garcia and Dean hit five 3-pointers each. The Cardinals finished with 11 and improved to 24-1 when they make at least seven.
"You wonder what it would've been like if they hadn't been making all the 3s," Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar said. "But they've won 31 other times this year. I'm sure there are 31 other teams who have said that."
This was billed as a matchup between Washington, the team trying to prove it really did deserve a top seed, and Louisville, the team that had lost once since Jan. 8 and couldn't believe it was only a No. 4.
Garcia, who scored 23, made three 3-pointers during a 14-0 first-half run to help the Cardinals end the debate. They moved on to Saturday's region final against Texas Tech or West Virginia.
Meanwhile, Washington's top scorers, Nate Robinson and Tre Simmons, struggled to defend against Pitino's inside-outside offense and wound up languishing on the bench with three fouls for a big chunk of the first half.
Robinson picked up his third with 8:51 left and Simmons his third with 3:50 left, exactly when Garcia started the run that put Louisville ahead 45-32.
"It was weird," Washington guard Brandon Roy said. "I was playing, kind of going through the motions, I looked at coach and said, "Why isn't Nate in there?' He said Nate had three fouls. It was kind of disappointing."
The teams traded baskets through much of the second half, and things got chippy when O'Bannon (18 points) went down in a heap with Washington'S Jamaal Williams and Bobby Jones. O'Bannon appeared to tap Williams with his foot while Williams was down, and the Huskies got angry.
Robinson responded with a steal and dunk, his only field goal of the night, and Hakeem Rollins made back-to-back baskets to pull Washington within 67-61.
But less than two minutes later, Garcia hit his fifth 3-pointer to make it 76-65, and the Cardinals never let the lead fall below double digits.
"Coach said when I'm open, please shoot the ball," Garcia said. "I saw a couple of open shots and I took them."
Juan Palacios shot 6-of-11 for 14 points and Ellis Myles had eight points and 13 rebounds to help Louisville finish with an 11-rebound advantage in the battle between teams not known for inside presence.
Robinson finished with eight points and missed all five 3-pointers, and Simmons went 3-of-6 for 10 points.
The guards, each averaging more than 16 points this season, struggled mightily in the second half, unable to shake the effects of sitting on the bench for such a long time. Williams finished with 18 points, Roy 15 and Will Conroy 14 plus eight assists.