Louisville slips by Vols, 65-62

By Wes Holtsclaw
STAR STAFF
wholtsclaw@starhq.com

   KNOXVILLE -- Rick Pitino struck again. This time, he got by with a little help from his friends... in the stripes.
   The Pitino-led, No. 5 ranked Louisville Cardinals (15-1) escaped Thompson-Boling Arena with a 65-62 victory over the Tennessee Volunteers Sunday night.
   Louisville ran into an aggressive Tennessee Volunteer team in the first half, but wore the home unit down throughout the second half.
   Turnovers and mistakes from the orange and white helped Louisville take a big lead late in the second half, but any chances of a Tennessee comeback were halted by two controversial calls from the officials with under ten seconds to go.
   "I'm proud of our guys for their fight. They never gave up," said Tennessee coach Buzz Peterson. "In the second half, it's been the same thing. We had a halftime lead, and they picked up the pressure a little bit. You could tell they got into us a little more and we had a hard time scoring."
   Tennessee out-rebounded Louisville 38-34, with help from 12 Jemere Hendrix boards, but 23 turnovers hurt the squad.
   "Our guys did a terrific job rebounding in the first half," the Vols coach said. "We let down in the second and we also had 23 turnovers that seemed to effect us."
   Historically, Tennessee has had a tough time against Pitino-led teams. The former Kentucky coach has led Louisville to road wins in Knoxville the past two seasons.
   "It was a hard-fought victory - especially on the road," said Pitino. "Tennessee is very physical and we had a hard time with the guys on the glass."
   "A big reason we won is our press," he said. "We knew if we were going to win, we would win in the end."
   "I'm ecstatic with this victory because Tennessee is outstanding," he added.
   The Volunteers led 28-26 after the first half of play against the Cardinals.
   A big part of Louisville's offensive success in the second half was sophomore forward Francisco Garcia, who scored a game-high 24 points. Fifteen of those came in the second half, and Tennessee didn't seem to have an answer defensively for him.
   "When I look at their offense, I look at Garcia," Peterson said. "Garcia is a pretty good ballplayer who made big plays."
   Tennessee led by as much as nine in the stanza with 2:56 to go. Louisville rallied to make it a two-point game.
   The Vols were paced by a ten-point frame from C.J. Watson, with Brandon Crump and Jemere Hendrix contributing to long runs.
   Francisco Garcia gave the Vols a tough time with three treys in the half.
   Cardinal junior and former Arby's Classic MVP Larry O'Bannon, Luke Whitehead, and Alhadi Mohammad Jr. also dropped a pair of field goals for Louisville.
   Watson pushed Tennessee to a five-point lead with a trey at the beginning of the second half, while Garcia worked an inside bucket for Louisville.
   A big slam from Crump and solid board work on the opposite end kept the edge for the Vols, but they had a tough time containing Whitehead.
   With a slam from Otis George, Louisville made it a one-point game.
   However, Tennessee returned the favor with back-to-back slams from Watson and Stanley Asumnu, which forced a timeout.
   Crump made it a seven-point game once again, and Louisville called another timeout.
   The Cardinals got hot behind Garcia and O'Bannon from the charity stripe, cutting it back to one around the 9:30 mark.
   Louisville got back-to-back slams of their own from Brandon Jenkins and Otis George, with Garcia grabbing a lay-in to give the red unit a five-point lead.
   Scooter McFadgon and John Winchester cut the Vols back to two, but Louisville held onto things as time wound down after some inside fouls against Tennessee made it an eight-point game.
   The Vols sliced it back to six with three minutes to go, but the game was practically over after the Cardinals benefited from turnovers.
   Tennessee played tough to the final horn, cutting the lead down to three with :13.7 seconds left after a big three from Justin Albrecht.
   Taquan Dean did his job from the free-throw line with a pair of buckets to make it a five-point game.
   Scooter McFadgon hit a trey with four seconds left to make it a two-point affair once again, but two straight controversial calls hurt Tennessee.
   First, a Louisville player knocked the ball out of bounds, and then Francisco Garcia was "fouled" with his foot out of bounds.
   "I agree with the fans when I saw the jumbotron," added Peterson. "I didn't think our guy came close to him. Whether we hit the game-winning shot or not is another case. I'm not one to blame the officials at all."
   Crump and Watson led the Vols with 16 and 15 points respectively, while McFadgon added ten. Whitehead added 13 points for Louisville. After the game, Pitino was very complimentary of Peterson.
   "From an 'X and O' standpoint, Peterson is a good coach," the Cardinals coach said. "I've coached against a lot of coaches and he's a really good coach. You are lucky to have him."
   "There's no worse thing in the world than to have a young team," he said. "I think Tennessee's as healthy of a program as I've seen it. Buzz is going to do great things with your program."