Thursday, March 07, 2002

Louisville buries TCU from deep

Cardinals hit 15 of 30 3s, score 110 points

The Associated Press

        With the score accelerating at an NBA pace, Louisville coach Rick Pitino was reminded of something he learned long ago about college tournament games in March.

        They're often decided by a player having a big game — like the one Bryant Northern and Reece Gaines had Wednesday.

        Gaines had 30 points and 10 assists, and Northern scored a career-high 25 and led a 3-point shooting binge that swept Louisville to a 110-86 victory over TCU in the first round of the Conference USA Tournament.

        It was Louisville's highest point total of the season.

        Louisville (18-11) took advantage of the conference's worst defense, hitting 15 of 30 3-pointers as it made another breakthrough in Pitino's first season. The Cardinals play No.13 Marquette (24-5) in the quarterfinals today.

        The Cardinals went 12-19 last season under Denny Crum and lost in the first round of the C-USA Tournament.

        Pitino, who led Kentucky to the 1996 NCAA championship, is 25-6 in conference tournaments, where most teams like to play conservatively.

        Not Pitino, who let his team shoot away.

        “There are so many buzzer-beaters because everybody plays it close to the vest,” Pitino said. “This time of the year is the players' time. I have confidence in them. They know they have the freedom.”

        Gaines went 11-of-16 from the field, while Northern led the spurt that left TCU too far behind. Northern missed only one of his nine shots and was 6-of-7 on 3-point attempts.

        “I was just at the right place at the right time. I've always shot with confidence,” Northern said.

        Coach Billy Tubbs sat on the scorer's table, crossed his legs and grimaced as TCU (16-15) struggled to keep up. He and leading scorer Junior Blount (31 points) got technical fouls as the frustration mounted in the second half.

        Tubbs announced before the season this would be his last at TCU, where he went 156-95 with one NCAA Tournament appearance. Overall, Tubbs is 595-297 in 28 seasons at Southwestern Texas, Lamar and Oklahoma and TCU.

        Tubbs isn't sure whether he'll retire from coaching or go somewhere else.

        “There's a chance, but it's very, very slim,” he said. “I can't put a percentage on it, but I'm not looking for a job and I don't know if I will.”

        TCU's frenetic style kept it close at the outset — there were four ties and eight lead changes in the first nine minutes. When TCU pulled in its defense to keep Louisville away from the basket, the Cardinals pulled away.

        The Cardinals ran off four consecutive 3-pointers, the last two by Northern, during a 12-3 run that made it 43-30. Gaines had 20 points in Louisville's highest-scoring half of the season, which ended with a 56-43 lead.

        Northern hit five of his first six shots in the second half — three of them 3-pointers — for a 69-47 lead.

        The same thing happened during Louisville's 93-85 win over the Horned Frogs on Jan.12, when the Cardinals shot a school-record 40 3-pointers and made 11 of them.

        The run-and-gun pace was typical for TCU, which led the conference in scoring (81.2-point average) and was last in defense (83.4 allowed). TCU (16-15) — Valsin 1-6 2-4 4, Merriex 4-11 0-0 10, Dumont 4-5 2-5 10, Santee 6-16 2-5 15, Blount 7-19 14-16 31, Smith 0-1 1-2 1, J. Brown 6-14 3-6 15, Boddicker 0-2 0-0 0, Paulk 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 28-75 24-38 86.

        LOUISVILLE (18-11) — Myles 4-6 4-4 12, O'Bannon 4-15 0-0 11, N'Sima 1-2 2-2 4, Northern 8-9 3-5 25, Gaines 11-16 4-9 30, Mohammed 2-6 1-2 6, Naydenov 1-4 0-0 2, Whitehead 4-9 3-7 11, E. Brown 3-6 2-2 9, George 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 38-74 19-31 110.

        Halftime—Louisville 56, TCU 43. 3-Point goals—TCU 6-24 (Valsin 0-2, Merriex 2-6, Santee 1-4, Blount 3-10, Boddicker 0-2), Louisville 15-30 (Myles 0-1, O'Bannon 3-9, Northern 6-7, Gaines 4-6, Mohammed 1-3, Maydenov 0-2, E. Brown 1-2). Fouled out—Dumont, J. Brown, Myles. Rebounds—TCU 48 (J. Brown 14), Louisville 45 (N'Sima, Whitehead 12). Assists—TCU 14 (Blount 5), Louisville 20 (Gaines 10). Total fouls—TCU 24, Louisville 25. Technicals—TCU bench, Blount. A—NA.


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