Garcia confident despite losses

University of Louisville sophomore forward Francisco Garcia is confident the Cardinals can make some post-season noise and thinks his team is playing much better basketball of late.

It's been a challenging season for Francisco Garcia and the University of Louisville. Off the court, Garcia lost his brother in December to a murderous crime in his Bronx home. On the court, he and his teammates have struggled through a rash of injuries and a difficult late season schedule, losing 7 of their past 10 game.

Despite the late season slump, Garcia remains upbeat as post-season play nears and feels the Cardinals have made some big strides to returning to the form that once had them ranked as high as number four in the nation.

"We're playing better basketball now," Garcia said. "Before we had a couple of injuries and we weren't playing as good as before. The chemistry wasn't the same. But right now we're getting that back."

"We were playing away from home almost all the time and that affected us a little bit," Garcia continued. "But all we've got to do is put that behind us and focus on the tournament."

Garcia said recent practices have been productive and those results have been apparent in key wins over Memphis and Saint Louis, and even in Louisville's one point loss over the weekend to Marquette.

"We have to keep working hard and focusing in," Garcia said. "We're doing a real good job in practice just going hard the whole time and understanding what coach is talking about."

Louisville's achilles heel in recent weeks has been their inability to hold leads late in the game and finish off opponents in the last five minutes of action. Garcia said the Cardinals have faltered down the stretch due to rebounding difficulties not because of a lack of effort.

"The last five minutes of the game we've just got to play the hardest," Garcia said. "We've got to focus even better at the end of the game. It's not a lack of effort, we've just got to box out better and grab the rebounds."

After building some much needed momentum with wins over the Tigers and Billikens, Garcia admitted to some frustration with last Saturday's loss to the Golden Eagles but feels his team took an important step forward heading into this week's Conference USA Tournament in Cincinnati.

"After the game we were frustrated," Garcia admitted. "But after this last game I think we moved a step forward even though we lost the game. We played real good but we didn't execute right during the last five minutes."

On Monday, Garcia, who led Louisville in scoring (15.8, 9th in C-USA), assists (4.9, third in C-USA) and steals (1.8, fourth in C-USA), was honored on the First Team All-CUSA squad by the leagues coaches and media. Even with the award in hand, Garcia has his mind focused on team success.

"It's real nice but I haven't accomplished anything yet," Garcia said.

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