Hours after brother's death, Garcia matches career high to lead Louisville
Posted: Thursday December 11, 2003 12:42AM; Updated: Thursday December 11, 2003 12:57AM
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Francisco Garcia grabbed a rebound, got fouled and then ran to the other end of the court with the ball still in his hands late in the Cardinals' 80-71 win over Seton Hall on Wednesday night.
He knew then that his tragic day would at least have a happy ending.
Garcia matched a career high with 24 points -- scoring the last four on free throws in the final 35.4 seconds -- the day after learning his only brother had been murdered in the Bronx, N.Y.
Police have made no arrests in the death of 19-year-old Hector Lopez, who was shot and killed Monday night in the lobby of a housing complex.
Garcia, Louisville's leading scorer, convinced coach Rick Pitino he could play through the emotional trauma. He planned to fly to New York City on Thursday morning but return in time for Saturday's game against No. 1 Florida.
Garcia did not speak to reporters after Wednesday's game.
"I don't know how he put on a uniform tonight," Pitino said. "For him to play was just incredible."
Garcia stood next to his best friend, Taquan Dean, as the national anthem was sung before tipoff. When the song was over, Dean embraced Garcia and whispered in his ear.
"I've known him for the last two or three years," Dean said. "It hurt him, and it hurt me as well."
When matters turned to basketball, Dean stepped up.
The hard-fought game was tied at 71-71 when Dean sank a 3-pointer from the top of the key to put Louisville ahead to stay.
Luke Whitehead had 14 points and 11 rebounds, and Dean added 13 for the Cardinals (3-1).
"This is a big win for us," Pitino said. "We know how good Seton Hall is."
Andre Barrett scored 21, and Marcus Toney-el and J.R. Morris added 15 apiece for Seton Hall (3-2).
The Cardinals opened the game with a 19-5 run, dominating the Pirates early with an active, trapping defense.
The Pirates settled down and answered with an 18-7 spurt to cut the lead to three. Seton Hall started 4-of-18 from the field, then hit six of its next eight shots.
"It was one of those games we knew would have runs," Seton Hall coach Louis Orr said. "We started out slow offensively. Our guys showed great courage. We knew if we hung in there, we could get back in the game."
The Cardinals maintained a slim lead until Barrett tied the game at 36-36 with a 3-pointer with 17:49 left in the game.
Louisville went more than four minutes without a field goal in the second half, and Seton Hall took its first lead at 61-60 on Morris' steal and breakaway dunk with 5:10 remaining.
Garcia sank a free throw 10 seconds later to tie the game. He missed his second try, but Louisville rebounded, and Garcia rattled in a 3-pointer to put the Cardinals on top.
Kendall Dartez blocked a shot on Seton Hall's next possession, and Garcia grabbed the loose ball and scored on a layup with 4:21 left for a 66-61 Louisville edge.
The Cardinals led by six when Barrett and Andre Sweet hit back-to-back 3-pointers to tie the game at 69.
A minute later, Dean followed a flurry of screens to the top of the key and sank the clinching 3-pointer.
Garcia raised his arms and applauded the fans as the final seconds ticked away. Barrett embraced Garcia after the final buzzer sounded.
"What I try to tell him is that there are no answers," Pitino said. "You are going to hurt, and you are supposed to. You have to stay close with your family, girlfriend and teammates to get through this."
The game continued a week of reunions for Pitino.
Orr was the first player Pitino recruited when he was an assistant to Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim in the 1970s. Last Sunday, Louisville defeated Holy Cross and former Pitino assistant Ralph Willard.
The top-ranked Gators are coached by Billy Donovan, who played for Pitino at Providence and coached with him at Kentucky.