Cards backcourt out-guns Huskies hyped guards

Led by the much-hyped backcourt of 5-7 Nate Robinson, 6-5 Trey Simmons, 6-2 Will Conroy, and 6-6 Brandon Roy, many analysts figured the Pac-10 Tournament champion Huskies simply had too much perimeter fire-power for fourth-ranked Louisville to handle. They figured wrong.

The Washington Huskies entered Thursday night's Albuquerque regional semifinal as the second highest scoring unit still alive in the NCAA Tournament.

Led by the much-hyped backcourt of 5-7 Nate Robinson, 6-5 Trey Simmons, 6-2 Will Conroy, and 6-6 Brandon Roy, many analysts figured the Pac-10 Tournament champion Huskies simply had too much perimeter fire-power for fourth-ranked Louisville to handle.

They figured wrong.

Led by 6-7 junior guard/forward Francisco Garcia, the Cardinals' talented perimeter trio that also includes 6-4 senior Larry O'Bannon and 6-3 junior Taquan Dean, out-played their Washington counterparts.

It's an old axiom in college basketball that guards carry teams in the post-season. Fortunately for Rick Pitino, backcourt play is the Cardinals primary strength.

Against the Huskies, Garcia, O'Bannon, and Dean combined for 60 points, with Garcia and Dean draining 10 three's between them - a major reason Louisville maintained a double-digit lead in the second half.


Francisco Garcia has scored 20 or more
points in three NCAA Tournament games.
The 6-7 junior scored 23 against
Washington to lead the Cardinals to a
14 point victory over the region's top-seed.

And while Washington's quartet scored 47 points, they made just 5-16 three's - and they had no answer defensively to stop Pitino's dynamite trio. Perhaps most importantly, the Cardinals' taller guards completely frustrated Robinson, the Huskies' top scorer and leader, holding him to just 8 points on 1-7 field goal shooting, essentially making Washington's All-American a non-factor.

Louisville's trio also had an edge over the Huskies in the intangibles, too.

See those 9 rebounds in the box score next to Taquan Dean's name? They were a key reason why Louisville controlled the boards and cruised to a 93-79 win. Also know that Dean didn't commit a turnover in 34 minutes of action against Washington's pressure defense.

How about those three blocked shots by Garcia? They were surely a big reason why the normally hot-shooting Huskies made just 41 percent of their shots on the night.

And don't neglect the 6 steals Garcia (1), O'Bannon (2), and Dean (3) came up with against what was widely considered the tournament's second-best backcourt behind Illinois' trio of Dee Brown, Deren Williams, and Luther Head.

Word to the wise. They're might not be a backcourt remaining in this tournament than Garcia, Dean, and O'Bannon.

No one paying attention should have been surprised by Louisville's strong play in the backcourt. The trio has led the Cardinals all season, and thoroughly outplayed Georgia Tech's talented guards Jarrett Jack, B.J. Elder, and Will Bynum last week in Nashville.

The Cardinals' backcourt will certainly face another stiff challenge Saturday from either Texas Tech or West Virginia. The Red Raiders boast All -Big 12 guard Ronald Ross, while the Mountaineers are one of the top shooting teams in the country.

One concern for Louisville heading into the regional finals is Dean's ankle. The Cardinals leading three-point shooter turned an ankle late in the game against Washington, briefly going to the bench for retaping before returning to action. Louisville will certainly need another big performance from Dean if they hope to make the Final Four for the first time since 1986.


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