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For Louisville's Garcia, a Stellar Career Ends on a Low

By Eric Prisbell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 3, 2005; Page E12

ST. LOUIS, April 2 -- The final game of Francisco Garcia's college career was a nightmare.

The Louisville junior, who will forgo his senior year of eligibility to enter the NBA draft, had scored at least 20 points in three of his first four NCAA tournament games this season.

Hounded by an aggressive Illinois defense, Louisville star Francisco Garcia, center, struggles in his final college game. (Peter Jones - Reuters)

But Garcia looked passive in Saturday's 72-57 loss to Illinois at the Edward Jones Dome. He finished with a season-low four points, making only 2 of 10 shots. What's more, Garcia grabbed only one rebound, tying a season low that he had matched on three occasions this season.

"We just tried to contest every shot," Luther Head said of Illinois' defense on Garcia.

Cardinals Defenseless

Louisville Coach Rick Pitino decided not to remain in man-to-man defense late in the second half, even when the Cardinals' deficit continued to grow.

"We could not guard them man-to-man," Pitino said in a television interview after the game. "This is the best attack team in college basketball."

Against West Virginia in the region final, Pitino scrapped his entire game plan at halftime, when his team trailed by 13 points. In the second half against the Mountaineers, Louisville played man-to-man throughout and pressured the ball full-court.

Virginia Continues Search

Virginia Athletic Director Craig Littlepage has not conducted any interviews in St. Louis with candidates for the open Cavaliers head coaching job, a source said. DePaul Coach Dave Leitao is among the favorites to fill the position.

A college basketball representative who met with Texas Coach Rick Barnes in Austin was told by Barnes that he was not interested in the Virginia position. The new name that has emerged as a possible candidate is Boston College Coach Al Skinner.

Skinner, who was named the Big East's coach of the year, led the Eagles to a share of the conference's regular season title. Boston College will compete in the ACC next season.

Murray the Mascot

Kentucky has Ashley Judd, but Illinois has comedian Bill Murray for its celebrity mascot. And Murray was on hand in conspicuous bright orange fashion for the Illini's national semifinal against Louisville, cheering the team on the from the stands.

While Murray didn't graduate from Illinois, he has become smitten with the squad, showing up to root at Chicago Region games and again in St. Louis, where he is staying at the team's hotel. Wearing an orange vest, orange tie and orange Illini cap, Murray stood most of the night and pumped his fist like crazy when the Illini took a 48-44 lead in the second half.

Coaching News

Texas Tech Coach Bob Knight's son and assistant, Pat Knight, is among the favorites to land the head coaching job at Fresno State. Former Southern California interim coach Jim Saia, a former Fresno State assistant, is also in contention to replace Ray Lopes, who resigned after a turbulent three-year stint. . . .

Though oddsmakers have picked North Carolina as the weekend favorite, Tar Heels players took themselves to the Mississippi River following Saturday's pregame shoot-around to spit in the river for luck, along with Coach Roy Williams, who has been spitting in the river for years in hopes of his first national championship. . . .

The attendance of Friday's open practice session, which was announced at 31,500, was one of the largest in NCAA tournament history.

Staff writer Liz Clarke contributed to this report.

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