Friday , Mar , 04 , 2005 C.Y. Ellis

O’Bannon pushes Louisville past 49ers

Louisville, KY (Sports Network) – Larry O’Bannon scored a career-high 33
points to lead ninth-ranked Louisville to a 94-82 win over 18th-ranked
Charlotte at Freedom Hall.

O’Bannon, a senior from Louisville, celebrated his final regular-season home
game by shooting 11-of-16 from the field, including 5-of-9 from three, as the
Cardinals have won five straight and 14 of their last 15 games.

“This was probably the most entertaining Senior Night that I’ve ever been
involved with,” said Louisville head coach Rick Pitino. “It was really a great
night and I’m very happy for our seniors. Larry O’Bannon had a very special
night and these guys feed off each. They know who the hot person is, they run
their offense, they find that person and they’re an extremely unselfish
group.”

Taquan Dean added 27 points for the Cardinals (25-4, 13-2 C-USA), who earned
at least a share of the Conference-USA regular-season title with the win. A
victory on Saturday at DePaul would secure the first outright championship for
Louisville, which is leaving the conference after the season to join the Big
East.

Ellis Myles had 10 points, eight rebounds and 10 assists for the Cardinals,
who started to pull away late in the first half. Junior Francisco Garcia, who
might’ve also played his final game at Freedom Hall, ended with 10 points, six
boards and six assists. Garcia, a conference player of the year candidate, is
expected to forego his senior season in favor of the NBA.

Brendan Plavich had 28 points, hitting seven of his eight shots from behind
the arc, to lead the 49ers (21-5, 12-3), who entered the game tied atop the
standings with Louisville. Curtis Withers added 20 points and nine boards for
Charlotte, which had a seven-game win streak halted.

“It was obviously a very difficult night for us,” said Charlotte head coach
Bobby Lutz. “I was a little disappointed that we did not execute a little
better against them. We knew that we had to play really well with everything
that was on the line to win the game, but obviously we fell a little short of
that.”

The Cardinals began to mount a lead late in the first. After the first 16
minutes were played close, Dean drained a three-pointer to extend Louisville’s
lead to 39-35 and start a 16-4 run that ended the half. O’Bannon had eight
points during the burst, ending it with a pair of free throws for a 52-39 lead
at the break.

In the second half, Dean sparked a 6-0 surge that extended the Louisville
cushion to 69-52 with 11 minutes remaining. Dean had five of the six points
during the run, draining a three-pointer to start it and two free throws to
bring it to an end.

Five minutes later an O’Bannon three-point play made it a 19-point margin,
85-66, and the Cardinals cruised from there.

“The little flurry at the end of the first half was huge,” added Lutz. “We
were still hanging around – six down, four down, two down – staying with them.
That little flurry put us down 13 points and made it very difficult to come
back against a team as good as they are.”

CHARLOTTE LOUISVILLE