By CHRIS DUNCAN, AP Sports Writer
March 13, 2003
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Louisville is finding ways to overcome the absence of senior center Marvin Stone.
Reece Gaines scored 15 points and Luke Whitehead had 11 points and 11 rebounds as the 20th-ranked Cardinals beat Tulane 82-66 in the quarterfinals of the Conference USA tournament on Thursday.
The 6-foot-10 Stone, the team's third-leading scorer and second-leading rebounder, sat out for the third time in four games as the NCAA investigates whether he accepted illegal benefits earlier in his career.
The Cardinals (22-6) have won all three games without Stone and will play No. 16 Memphis (23-5) in Friday's semifinals.
Freshman Francisco Garcia scored 15 points, and Otis George added 14 for Louisville, which used a swarming full-court defense to force Tulane into a season-high 25 turnovers.
Louisville committed only six turnovers, and Coach Rick Pitino said he was more impressed with his team's offense than its defense.
``Offensively, we played smart and did a lot of things correctly,'' Pitino said. ``On the defensive end, we are not playing with great intelligence. Playing hard is a given. We just have to play with more intelligence.''
Without Stone and leading rebounder Ellis Myles, who's out for the season with a knee injury, Pitino has turned to a more perimeter-oriented motion offense. It worked well against the Green Wave's 1-3-1 zone defense. The Cardinals went 8-for-28 from 3-point range.
``We're very good at shooting the 3 versus that defense,'' Pitino said. ``It's a good defense to rebound off of. Luke did a great job of keeping the ball alive and then throwing it back out and giving us chances at a good shot.''
Waitari Marsh scored 17 points and Brandon Brown and Nick Sinville added 12 each for Tulane (16-15).
The Green Wave shot 53 percent, but Louisville scored 28 points off the turnovers to win for just the third time in seven games.
The game did not draw a capacity crowd at Freedom Hall, but Louisville fans outnumbered Tulane's cheering section by several thousand.
The Green Wave silenced the noisy crowd early by hitting four of their first five shots and taking an 8-3 lead.
``Emotionally, we were taken out of the game early,'' Pitino said. ``Right before the game, I told the team that Marvin wasn't playing. Some of the guys felt dejected by that news.''
Louisville came back to tie it at 10-10, and the Cardinals built a seven-point lead as the Green Wave's turnovers began to mount. But the Cardinals went the final four minutes of the first half without a field goal, and Marsh's off-balance jumper over Gaines force a 31-31 halftime tie.
Tulane led 43-40 when George dunked with 15:09 left to trigger a 14-0 run. Consecutive 3-pointers by Gaines and George after Tulane turnovers sent the lead to double-digits four minutes after George's dunk.
``Otis played very hard and very well,'' Pitino said.
Tulane committed 10 turnovers in the first 12 minutes of the second half as the Cardinals' full-court pressure wore down the Green Wave's guards.
Tulane coach Shawn Finney was as concerned with Louisville's 15 offensive rebounds as he was with his team's 25 turnovers.
``We hung in there, but when they made their spurt, I talked to the team about rebounding the ball,'' Finney said. ``That was the big difference during that stretch. They started dominating the glass.''
The Cardinals won their tournament opener for the second straight year after two consecutive opening-round defeats.
Updated on Thursday, Mar 13, 2003 7:56 pm, EST
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