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Updated: Saturday, January 3, 2004 6:16 PM EST
NCAA BASKETBALL RECAP
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(14) Louisville 91, Murray St 69

LOUISVILLE, Kentucky (Ticker) -- Francisco Garcia is known for his shooting, but his passing put his name in Louisville's record book.

Garcia scored 17 points and dished out a school-record 15 assists as the 14th-ranked Cardinals stretched their winning streak to nine games with a 91-69 rout of Murray State.

Garcia, who averages 16.1 points and shoots 44 percent from the arc, was forced to distribute since Murray State (10-2) left open other Cardinals. The 6-7 forward from the Bronx obliged with a passing exhibition that rallied Louisville from a 37-35 halftime deficit.

"Francisco had an unbelievable night," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "That type of passing really fosters great chemistry. Against the press, we want to get it, attack it and go. We did a very good job of attacking it tonight."

Louisville (9-1) got a basket from Garcia to open the half that started a 17-4 tear capped by his free throws for a 52-41 advantage with 16:10 left. The Cardinals continued to tear up the nets in the second half for 56 points.

Pitino improved to 16-1 against his former assistants, beating Racers coach Mick Cronin. Cronin served as Pitino's assistant the past two years before leaving for Murray State.

Afterward, Pitino threw out his customary bouquet after beating his fourth different former assistant this season.

"They are extremely well-coached," he said. "I am real proud of Mick. That is as well-coached team we have played against this year. Murray State is lucky to have him."

Murray State was lucky in the first half that Louisville did not get its game going. The Racers limited the Cardinals to 40 percent (14-of-35) shooting in taking the two-point lead to the locker room.

The final 20 minutes was a different story as Garcia's all-around play got Luke Whitehead and Larry O'Bannon untracked. Whitehead scored 23 points and O'Bannon added a career-high 20.

"I have to give Larry credit because he came out the second half and made some great shots," said Cronin, who admitted it was difficult to face the players he coached last season. "He stuck a dagger in my heart with those shots. That's why they are a great team."

Louisville has won 10 straight against its state rival, improving to 9-0 against the Racers at Freedom Hall.


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