O'Bannon leads Cards to 66-62 victory over DePaul

Larry O'Bannon was nearly perfect in leading No. 9 Louisville (26-4, 14-2) past DePaul (18-9, 10-6) 66-62 Saturday afternoon at Allstate Arena in Chicago to claim the C-USA regular-season title outright. O'Bannon, who scored a career-high 33 points against Charlotte Thursday night, made 11-12 shots from the field against the Blue Demons, including 5-5 three's and made 7-7 from the line.

Larry O'Bannon was nearly perfect in leading No. 9 Louisville (26-4, 14-2) past DePaul (18-9, 10-6) 66-62 Saturday afternoon at Allstate Arena in Chicago to claim the C-USA regular-season title outright.

O'Bannon, who scored a career-high 33 points in a 94-82 win against Charlotte Thursday night, made 11-12 shots from the field against the Blue Demons, including 5-5 three's. The 6-4 senior also drained 7-7 from the line.

"Lary O'Bannon had an unbelievable night once again," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "The difference for him this year is he's not taking challenged shots."

A tight game throughout, Louisville took a narrow two-point lead, 34-32, to the locker room at halftime. Normally a solid defensive club, Pitino said his team had to win the game with great play on offense this afternoon.

"We relied on our offense today," Pitino said. "Our defense wasn't as good as it has been but our offensive excution was excellent."

Clinging to a one-point lead, 60-59, late in the second half, 6-7 forward Francisco Garcia made two free-throws to give Louisville a 62-59 lead with just 57-seconds left to play.

That's when O'Bannon took charge and put the game away for the Cardinals. Still up 62-59, O'Bannon made two free-throws with just 13.6 seconds remaining to put Louisville up 64-59. Then with only five seconds left and the game out of reach, O'Bannon stepped to the line and made two more free-throws to give the Cardinals a commanding 66-59 lead.

DePaul's Sammy Meija, who led the Blue Demons with 21 points, made a three-pointer at the buzzer for the game's final margin.

Taquan Dean was the only other Louisville player in double-figures, scoring 11 points off the Cardinals bench. Starting forwards Ellis Myles and Otis George scored 8 points each, while 6-8 Juan Palacios finished with seven.

Garcia, who made just 1-8 shots from the field, continued to struggle. He finished with only five points and was noticably exhausted late in the game.

"He was out of gas," Pitino said. "The biggest knock on him is not his age - that's a plus. His biggest problem is he's physcially weak. We just need to rest him now. Then after the season, we're going to go to work on his body and put ten pounds on him."

Drake Diener and Lavar Seals scored 15 and 9 points, respectively.

With their win over DePaul, Louisville clinched the 2004-05 Conference USA regular-season title. As regular-season champions, the Cardinals will be the No. 1 seed in the C-USA tournament next week in Memphis.

The Cardinals, who receive a first-round bye in the C-USA tournament, will likely play either Marquette or TCU Thursday afternoon in the quarter-final.


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