O'Bannon, Dean shoot Cards to 94-82 title win

Larry O'Bannon scored a career-high 33 points and junior Taquan Dean scored 27 to lead No. 9 Louisville to a 94-82 win over No. 18 Charlotte to win the regular-season C-USA title and earn the top seed in next week's C-USA tourney in Memphis.

Larry O'Bannon turned his final home game into the biggest night of his career.

The Louisville native scored a career-high 33 points -- 26 in the first half -- to help No. 9 Louisville clinch a share of the Conference USA regular-season title with a 94-82 victory over No. 18 Charlotte on Thursday night.

``Your hometown fans are going to remember you in your last game,'' O'Bannon said. ``I didn't know it was going to be like that.''

The 6-foot-4 O'Bannon, one of three seniors playing in Freedom Hall for the last time, tied a school record for points in a half, hitting his first five 3-pointers.

``Larry O'Bannon had a very, very special night,'' Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. ``It was a Hollywood ending for a nice young man.''

Junior Taquan Dean made six 3-pointers and added 27 points for Louisville (25-4, 13-2 Conference USA), which clinched the top seed in next week's league tournament in Memphis, Tenn.

Dean, diagnosed with mononucleosis in late February, missed a career high by four points.

``I wasn't feeling it, I was exhausted,'' Dean said. ``Once I hit a couple of shots, then things started to go.''

Ellis Myles had a career-high 10 assists for the Cardinals, who can secure their first outright regular-season Conference USA championship with a victory at DePaul on Saturday.

Myles, a fifth-year senior, is the last holdover from the Denny Crum era. He has never played in the NCAA tournament after missing last season to recover from a knee injury he suffered the previous year.

``It was a very emotional night for me and the team,'' Myles said. ``Nobody thought I would make it this far.''

But the night belonged to O'Bannon, who took over the game during a fast-paced, competitive first half.

Constantly finding gaps in Charlotte's defense, the Louisville native was 9-of-10 from the field in the opening 20 minutes and scored eight points during a half-ending 16-4 run.

``I just hit my first couple of 3s and my teammates started looking for me,'' O'Bannon said. ``I do it every day in practice. I guess it just carried over.''

Brendan Plavich, guarded by O'Bannon much of the game, hit seven 3-pointers and scored 28 points for the 49ers (21-5, 12-3), who had a seven-game winning streak snapped.

O'Bannon's game overshadowed an impressive shooting display by Plavich, who came into the game second in the nation in 3-pointers per game. Plavich made five 3-pointers in the first half, two of them from 30 feet.

``He was shooting from half-court, it seemed like,'' Dean said. ``That's kind of hard to stop.''

Plavich's fourth 3-pointer gave Charlotte a 25-24 lead, but O'Bannon answered with a 3-pointer a minute later and Louisville never trailed again.

Charlotte coach Bobby Lutz, angered when E.J. Drayton was whistled for fouling O'Bannon, drew a technical foul with 10.1 seconds left in the half. Francisco Garcia and O'Bannon hit two free throws apiece to boost the lead to 13 by halftime.

The cold-shooting 49ers never made a move in the second half, going 5 minutes without a field goal during one stretch.

O'Bannon, who scored a career high 30 against Marquette in January, cooled off in the second half, missing three shots. But he set a new career high with a reverse layup with 6:04 left. He was fouled on the play and hit the free throw as the crowd chanted ``Lar-ree! Lar-ree!''

O'Bannon left the floor with 1:01 to go, waving to the fans and embracing teammates as the chant resumed.

``You couldn't ask for anything better,'' he said. ``I never thought of a night like this. You don't dream it up.''

The 49ers made 13 3-pointers but shot 36 percent overall (24 of 66), their lowest output in four games.

``It was obviously a very difficult night for us,'' Lutz said. ``We knew we had to play really well with everything to have a chance to win. Obviously, we fell short of that.''

Prior to tipoff, a video montage chronicled the careers of seniors Otis George, Ellis Myles and O'Bannon and Garcia, a junior who will leave for the NBA after this season. Pitino gave a framed jersey to each player.

``Without those guys, we're nothing,'' Pitino said.

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