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Garcia's 27 Help Cards Escape 1st Round

Louisville 68, Louisiana-Lafayette 62

Associated Press
Saturday, March 19, 2005; Page D10

NASHVILLE, March 18 -- Rick Pitino was right.

Louisville's coach didn't expect an easy game against Louisiana-Lafayette in the first round of the NCAA tournament, and the Ragin' Cajuns proved just as troublesome as Pitino suspected -- maybe even more.

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"Even at halftime, we said, 'Look, guys, you think you're going to blow this team out, you're mistaken. It's coming down to last 2 minutes,' " Pitino said after his fourth-seeded Cardinals advanced in the Albuquerque Region with a 68-62 victory Friday night.

"We're very proud of this victory. When you're a four seed, and you play these teams today, you're going to play a terrific basketball team. We knew we weren't getting a breather."

Francisco Garcia went 7 for 7 from the free throw line in the final 1 minute 57 seconds, finishing with 27 points to help Louisville (30-4) reach the second round for the second time in three years under Pitino, who is 28-9 in the NCAA tournament.

Pitino insisted all along that Louisiana-Lafayette was not a typical No. 13 seed, going as far as to say the Ragin' Cajuns were the most difficult first-round opponent he's faced in 10 tournament appearances with Boston University, Providence, Kentucky and Louisville.

O'Bannon scored 13 points and Taquan Dean has 12 for Louisville (30-4).

Brian Hamilton led Louisiana-Lafayette (20-11) with 19 points before fouling out. Tiras Wade had 15 points and Chris Cameron added 11.

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