Louisville defeats Nova; Face Hoyas for title

No. 13 Louisville (23-6, 14-3) handled Villanova Sunday at Freedom Hall 68-54. The Cardinals, who have won nine in a row, play Georgetown next weekend for a Big East regular-season title.

For all the things that the three University of Louisville men's basketball seniors had accomplished in their careers there was something they had never done - beat Villanova.

But David Padgett, Juan Palacios and Terrance Farley can now check that one off their list. The trio was able to achieve that on their Senior Day.

Padgett, Palacios and Farley - who came in 0-for-3 versus Villanova in the Big East Conference for their careers - combined for 21 points and nine rebounds in a 68-54 UofL win Sunday in front of 20,043 fans at Freedom Hall.

"I was more concerned about the game," Padgett, the 6-foot-11 center, said of the pregame festivities that honored the three departing players. "Senior Day on a loss wouldn't have been very fun."

Their ninth win in a row kept the 13th-ranked Cards (24-6, 14-3) tied atop the Big East standings with Georgetown (24-4, 14-3) heading into the Saturday showdown between the two.

In his final home game, and playing in front of his mother for the first time, Palacios led Louisville with 13 points.

Louisville's 68-54 win over Villanova was a
happy ending for the Cards trio of seniors.

"It was just very exciting being that my mother was here for the first time to watch me play, I'm just glad I made some shots," said Palacios, a native of Medellin, Colombia, who was 5 for 8 from the field including 3 of 5 from three-point range.

Sophomore guard Jerry Smith added 10 points and a game-high 10 rebounds for the Cards, while Terrence Williams added nine points, five rebounds and five assists and Andre McGee chipped in with nine points. Sophomore forward Earl Clark, who told Pitino before the game that he wanted Palacios to start in his place, added eight points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots off the bench.

"We played an outstanding team tonight- very focused, very unselfish and I was just very impressed with the balance of this team offensively," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "I just thought they did a great job of getting us in front of them and rebounding the ball."

UofL outrebounded the Wildcats 38-29, including 12 to six on the offensive end. Those extra opportunities allowed the Cards to outscore Villanova 20-7 in second-chance points.

"You have to win this game by doing little things and we did, we kept them off the offensive glass," UofL coach Rick Pitino said.

Villanova (17-11, 7-9), which came in having won three of its last four games, appeared to be behind from the start with two starters missing the start of the game.

Leading scorer Scottie Reynolds - who had nine points and 10 assists in last year's 57-53 win over UofL - and freshman guard Corey Fisher were benched because they overslept and were five minutes late for the team bus.

Villanova, though, vaulted out to a 7-3 lead as it looked like it was going to be a grind-it-out, shot-clock eating game.

But then the Cards turned up the heat on defense and after falling behind 15-11 they outscored the Wildcats 19-5 over the next five and a half minutes.

Louisville led 35-24 at halftime thanks in large part to their points off turnovers - the Cards converted eight Villanova miscues into 11 points - and second-chance points (12-0).

McGee scored all of his points in the first half on 3 of 5 three-point shooting, while Palacios added eight.

Forward Dwayne Anderson led the Wildcats with six points in the first half.

"We got two starters (Anderson and forward Dante Cunningham) in foul trouble and we don't have the depth yet to handle that against a very good team," Wright said. "When they went to their second lineup I thought that really made the difference in the first half."

Louisville continued to turn up the heat on defense and crash the boards in the second half. Smith's steal - despite an audible slap heard on press row - and dunk gave the Cards a 41-28 lead.

"I think their length, we all know about Padgett and Clark and their length and Williams and whatever you list him at he is long, but those little guards I think they're listed at 6-1 and 5-11, they've got to have wingspans of 7 feet," Wright said.

Later back-to-back rebound-baskets by Clark and Derrick Caracter increased the Cards' cushion to 48-32.

Louisville's lead grew to 18 (58-40) on a free throw by Farley with 4:45 remaining in the game.

The Cards cruised from there.

"They're as good as anybody in the league. They're playing great - I was very impressed," Wright said.

Louisville closes out the regular season Saturday at Georgetown in a game that will decide the regular-season conference champion.

"Now we've got five days to prepare to try and win a Big East title," Padgett said.

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