"I don't think there are too many young men that could have played tonight," explained Coach Rick Pitino. "He's very close with his brother and very close with his family. I told him, 'go home and don't worry about [playing]' and he said, 'no, I want to be here and be with the team and I'll go home afterwards.' Not too many people have that type of emotional strength."
Louisville, behind a strong defensive effort, built a comfortable double digit lead in the first half before Seton Hall reserve guard J.R. Morris led the Pirates back with 13 late first half points. U of L led just 33-31 at the break.
In the second half, Louisville couldn't put away the veteran Pirates after building several near double figure leads.
Andre Barrett, who was relatively quiet during the first half, heated up in the second frame and kept the Pirates close to the end. And his three pointer
Leading midway through the final half, Louisville suffered a four minute scoring drought that allowed Seton Hall to take its first lead of the game, 61-60 on J.R. Morris' steal and lay up with 5:10 remaining in the game.
That's when Garcia and the Cards dug into their homecourt and refused to give one away in front of the home fans.
Just seconds after Morris' basket, Garcia made 1-2 free throws to tie the game at 61. Louisville rebounded Garcia's missed free throw, and the 6'7 sophomore forward nailed a three from the left wing to put the Cards ahead, 64-61.
Louisville center Kendall Dartez' blocked shot on Seton Hall's next possession led to a Garcia lay up at the other end and gave Louisville a 66-61.
But Seton Hall wasn't finished as Andre Barrett and Andre Sweet connected on two open three pointers to tie the game at 69 with just minutes remaining in the game.
U of L's Taquan Dean then took center stage and knocked down his third trifeca of the game that proved be the game winner to put the Cards ahead 74-71. Garcia then finished off the Pirates with clutch late free throw shooting.
"The play was actually set up for Francisco, but [Seton Hall] overplayed it and they found me for an open shot," explained Dean on the late three-pointer. "The whole night I was rushing my shots, but at that time, I knew it was going down."
Louisville outscored the Pirates during the last five minutes, 20-9 to defeat Seton Hall for the second straight season.
"We just have to keep focused and listen to what coach says," Alhaji Mohammed said of the team's ability to continually thwart off Seton Hall charges. "If we stay focused, we'll be able to do a lot of good things."
Luke Whitehead finished with his eighth double-double in the past ten games with 14 points and 11 rebounds and Dean ended with 13 points.
Barrett led Seton Hall with 21 points, and J.R. Morris and Marcus Toney-El each finished with 15 points apiece.
"This is a great win for us because Seton Hall is a hell of a basketball team," Pitino said. "We gave them everything we could...all we could hope to do is wear them out."
Seton Hall Coach Louis Orr agreed.
"Louisville did a good job pressuring us, We got some looks but to me our defense is what we hang our hat on. We have to be able to get stops at crucial times. Dean hit a big three and they made the shots at the end."
Louisville takes on #1 Florida Saturday at noon at Freedom Hall in the third annual Billy Minardi Classic.
Seton Hall (3-2)
Toney-el 5-7 4-4 15, Sweet 2-6 6-7 11, Billmeier 0-0 1-2 1, Barrett 7-17 2-2 21, Allen 0-12 3-4 3, Morris 6-11 0-0 15, Gambino 0-2 0-0 0, Fray 2-5 1-2 5, Davis 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-60 17-21 71.
Whitehead 5-9 4-5 14, O'Bannon 3-7 0-0 7, Dartez 2-3 3-6 7, Dean 3-10 4-4 13, Garcia 5-13 10-12 24, Diakite 1-3 4-6 6, Jenkins 1-1 0-0 3, Mohammed 1-3 0-0 2, Daniels 1-3 0-0 2, George 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 23-53 25-33 80.
Halftime-Louisville 33-31. 3-point Goals-Seton Hall 10-25 (Barrett 5-11, Morris 3-7, Toney-el 1-2, Sweet 1-2, Allen 0-3), Louisville 9-23 (Garcia 4-7, Dean 3-8, Jenkins 1-1, O'Bannon 1-3, Whitehead 0-1, Mohammed 0-1, Daniels 0-2). Fouled out-Allen. Rebounds-Seton Hall 36 (Toney-el 9), Louisville 38 (Whitehead 11). Assists-Seton Hall 11 (Barrett 7), Louisville 17 (Dean, Garcia 4). Total fouls-Seton Hall 22, Louisville 17. A-21,633.Notes