The junior forward matched his career-high with 29 points, including eight straight during a 27-4 Louisville knockout blow, and the 19th-ranked Cardinals pulled away for a 98-64 victory Sunday.
Tennessee State (5-9) pulled within 36-30 on a 3-pointer by Bruce Price, one his five 3s, and a dunk by Roshaun Bowens.
Showing his versatility, Garcia responded with 12 points during Louisville's spurt. He scored on a layup and a dunk along with a 3-pointer and made five free throws. The dunk was set up when Brad Gianiny threaded the Tennessee State defense with a perfect bounce pass.
"We started off a little slow," Garcia said. "That's when I know I have to be a leader and step up. It's my job to get everybody involved."
Garcia was 9-of-16 from the field, including four 3-pointers, and made all seven of his free throws. Larry O'Bannon added three 3-pointers over Tennessee State's zone as the Cardinals (11-2) hit 12 from behind the arc despite the absence of 3-point specialist Taquan Dean because of back spasms. O'Bannon and freshman Lorrenzo Wade each finished with 14 points and Ellis Myles added 13 points and 13 rebounds.
After Tennessee State moved within six points, Perrin Johnson answered for Louisville by putting in his own miss and adding a free throw to ignite an initial 14-2 run. Gianiny had a 3-pointer, then Garcia reeled off eight consecutive points during a 13-2 run that made it 63-34.
The Cardinals forced 15 turnovers for the game, converting them into 22 points, and outrebounded Tennessee State 45-31.
"We have to get out on the break," Johnson said. "We shoot the ball very well from the perimeter. If we do that, shoot the ball well and rebound, we can play with anybody in the country."
"If there's a silver lining in this cloud that keeps changing direction, it's the development of Perrin Johnson because we need frontcourt help," Pitino said.
Louisville's biggest first-half lead was 36-16 on a layup by Myles with 3:56 left. Tennessee State answered with nine straight points, including a 3-pointer by Price, to make it 36-25 at halftime.
Price finished with 24 points but missed several minutes during Louisville's long second-half spurt after being carried off the court with an apparent leg injury. Price later returned to the game.
Tennessee State coach Cy Alexander said his team wasn't the same without Price during the crucial stretch.
"I think when he went down, our energy and our confidence shut down and it was only shut down for 2 or 3 minutes," Alexander said. "But when you're already down and on the road against a good team, the lead can jump from six points to 20 points and that's what happened."
Eric King added 16 points for Tennessee State.
Juan Palacios had 14 rebounds for Louisville.
Louisville was 35-of-65 from the field (53.8 percent), while Tennessee State was 23-of-62 (37.1 percent.) The Cardinals were 12-of-31 from 3-point range, and Tennessee State hit only eight of 24.
The Cardinals' last four wins came against Ohio Valley Conference teams in preparation for the start of Conference USA play Wednesday at Houston.