Cards look to win league title out-right at DePaul

No. 9 Louisville (25-4, 13-2), who clinched a share of the regular-season C-USA title Thursday night with a 94-82 win over Charlotte, will face DePaul (18-8, 10-5) this afternoon to close out regular-season play.

Louisville can be forgiven if its celebration for clinching a share of the Conference USA regular season title was a bit muted.

The ninth-ranked Cardinals face a difficult turnaround to try to earn the outright title when they face DePaul on Saturday in the final C-USA game for both teams.

Louisville (25-4, 13-2 C-USA) earned a share of the title with a 94-82 win over No. 18 Charlotte late Thursday night. The Cardinals also wrapped up the top seed for the conference tournament.

They would like to earn the first -- and only -- outright C-USA title in school history. It would be the last because Louisville and DePaul (18-8, 10-5) are among five teams leaving the conference to join the Big East.

After playing at home late Thursday, the Cardinals -- winners of 14 of their last 15 games -- traveled to Chicago on Friday for the next day's 11 a.m. Central start.

``It's great to win a championship, but we can't fall into a trap right now,'' Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. ``The trap is that we're coming off a very emotional Senior Night and now we play against a team on the senior brunch, with the game set for 11 a.m. Central on Saturday, we don't have any time to prepare and DePaul is a terrific basketball team.

``We've got one game left and we want to keep on winning. We're going to have a hell of a fight in Chicago because they're an excellent ball club.''

Larry O'Bannon scored a career-high 33 points to help Louisville to its fifth straight win. O'Bannon bounced back from a two-point outing last Saturday at Memphis.

``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.''

Cardinals forward Ellis Myles just missed a triple-double against Charlotte with 10 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds. Myles has provided a boost by averaging 10.8 points and 10.8 rebounds over his previous five outings.

``He's playing great basketball right now,'' Pitino said. ``He's handling, he's passing it and he's a big reason why we're winning right now. I think Francisco (Garcia), Larry and Taquan (Dean) get a lot of credit, but if you take Ellis out of this lineup, you have last year's team and last year's team had no low-post presence.''

DePaul has not played since an 81-80 overtime loss at UAB on Wednesday that prevented the Blue Demons from earning a first-round bye in the conference tournament. A win over Louisville would clinch at least fourth place and boost DePaul's chances at a second straight NCAA tournament berth.

The Blue Demons are 14-1 at home, where they have won 12 straight. They are 7-0 at the Allstate Arena in conference play and have never been unbeaten at home for an entire conference season.

Drake Diener drained six 3-pointers, but missed a potential go-ahead shot in the final 12 seconds of Wednesday's loss. Diener, who is one of four seniors playing his final home game, has led the Blue Demons in scoring in each of the last five games, averaging 19.8 points in that stretch.

Diener, who is shooting over 46 percent from the arc, has made at least six 3-pointers in three of his last six games.

DePaul has won the last two meetings with Louisville and both have gone overtime. Quemont Greer scored 19 points for the Blue Demons in a 60-58 win at Freedom Hall on Feb. 25, 2004 in the last meeting.


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