Sunday, March 2, 2003

No. 11 Louisville 82, East Carolina 76

Louisville reinvents itself, breaks 3-game losing skid

By Chris Duncan
The Associated Press

LOUISVILLE - Louisville had lost three straight games, was playing for the first time without its two leading rebounders and was in desperate need of a win.

Reece Gaines scored a season-high 30 points and two freshmen combined for 32 as the 11th-ranked Cardinals beat East Carolina 82-76 on Saturday.

"I'm really pleased with our victory," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "It's not so much what the win did for us, but what a loss would have done for us. We had to do something about the adversity. This loss would've affected the psyche of our team."

The Cardinals (20-5, 9-4 Conference USA) had lost the three games in the last two weeks. Leading rebounders Ellis Myles and Marvin Stone were lost in the last two days.

But freshman Taquan Dean scored 17 points and classmate Francisco Garcia added 15 for the Cardinals, who snapped a two-game home losing streak and reached 20 wins for the first time since 1996-97.

The 6-foot-8 Myles suffered a season-ending knee injury in Thursday's 78-73 loss to Marquette. The 6-10 Stone was held out by the school as the NCAA continues looking into his ties to his former AAU coach in Alabama.

Myles watched the game from a wheelchair behind the Louisville bench. Stone sat at the end of the bench, wearing street clothes.

"You can look at it two ways - give up or we've got one shot to see what we can do," Gaines said. "It's a great opportunity for other guys to step up."

Kendall Dartez and Luke Whitehead, with a combined five starts this season, replaced Stone and Myles in the starting lineup.

The Cardinals used fullcourt pressure from the opening tip, then dropped back into a 2-3 zone most of the game to mask their depleted frontcourt.

"We have to start over at certain things," Pitino said. "We have to become a decent zone team and we have to become a different man-to-man team because we don't have the size. We sort of have to reinvent ourselves."

Louisville started 9-of-16 from the field and built a six-point lead. But Gaines picked up his second foul with 7:12 left in the first half and was benched by Pitino.

The Cardinals didn't click on offense the rest of the first half, missing four of their last five shots.

Gaines returned at the start of the second half and the Cardinals reeled off 17 straight points.

The Pirates called a timeout 90 seconds into the half, but then threw the ball out of bounds on a set play. Gaines hit a jumper, then assisted on a 3-pointer by Garcia for a 43-36 lead.

The Cardinals' smothering press generated seven turnovers in the first 3:04 of the second half.

"We're a team that has really taken care of the basketball," East Carolina coach Bill Herrion said. "We really struggled with the press. They really got after us."

Gaines' 3-pointer from the top of the key with 16:33 left gave Louisville its biggest lead, 48-36.

The Pirates showed more patience on offense to climb back into the game. Derrick Wiley converted a three-point play with 9:06 left to cut Louisville's lead to 54-51.

Wiley finished with a career-high 29 to lead the Pirates (12-14, 3-12), who have lost 12 of 14.

The Cardinals led 68-62 when Gaines made a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 4:08 left. The basket gave Gaines 25 points, which moved him past Milt Wagner into fourth place on the school's all-time scoring list.

Garcia scored on a drive to push the lead to 11, but Travis Holcomb-Faye hit a jumper to start a 10-2 run by the Pirates.

Gabriel Mikulas hit a baseline shot with 1:41 left to trim the deficit to 75-72. Dartez and Gaines each hit a free throw over the next minute, and Gaines hit two more with 22 seconds left to put the game away.

"Gaines is just a great player," Herrion said. "He just made big shot after big shot."

The school invited all its former lettermen back for Saturday's game. All-time scorer Darrell Griffith, the star of Louisville's 1980 NCAA championship team, spoke to the crowd from midcourt shortly before tipoff.

EAST CAROLINA (12-14)-Bing 2-2 1-2 5, Mikulas 5-8 2-3 12, Rivers 1-2 0-0 3, Wiley 10-19 7-10 29, Holcomb-Faye 5-10 1-2 12, Mackay 0-0 0-0 0, Badiane 1-6 9-11 11, Moore 1-4 1-2 4. Totals 25-51 21-30 76.

LOUISVILLE (20-5)-Whitehead 2-4 0-0 4, Garcia 5-10 2-2 15, Dartez 2-7 4-6 8, Dean 6-11 3-4 17, Gaines 9-19 8-10 30, Tinch 0-0 0-0 0, Northern 0-3 0-0 0, Naydenov 0-1 0-0 0, Brown 0-2 0-0 0, O'Bannon 1-2 0-0 2, George 2-4 2-3 6. Totals 27-63 19-25 82.

Halftime-East Carolina 36-31. 3-Point field goals-East Carolina 5-10 (Wiley 2-4, Rivers 1-1, Moore 1-2, Holcomb-Faye 1-3), Louisville 9-24 (Gaines 4-9, Garcia 3-6, Dean 2-7, Northern 0-2). Fouled out-Holcomb-Faye, Garcia. Rebounds-East Carolina 38 (Wiley 11), Louisville 35 (George 9). Assists-East Carolina 14 (Holcomb-Faye 5), Louisville 12 (Dean 3). Total fouls-East Carolina 23, Louisville 23. A-19,502.

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Women: Saint Louis 69, UC 63

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