LOUISVILLE, Kentucky (Ticker) -- Rick Pitino can breathe a sigh of relief.
After losing four straight and six of seven, No. 21 Louisville snapped 22nd-ranked Memphis' 11-game winning streak with a 66-60 victory in a Conference USA battle.
Francisco Garcia led the Cardinals with 18 points and also made a key defensive play and set up Otis George for a dunk in the final minutes to hold off a late rally by first-place Memphis (20-5, 11-3 C-USA).
"It secured an NCAA berth," Pitino said of Louisville's win. "Our non-conference schedule is No. 2. Our regular season schedule is 18. We never got discouraged about losing because we looked at our schedule and knew where we were going to have bumps."
Louisville (18-7, 8-6) had slipped into a tie for sixth-place in the conference with Saint Louis. Included in its miserable stretch of six losses in seven games was a 62-58 setback at Memphis on February 4. But Garcia, Louisville's leading scorer at 15.3 points, and Taquan Dean missed that game with a sprained ankle.
This time, Memphis lost starting forward Rodney Carney - the team's third-leading scorer and second-leading rebounder- to a right ankle injury in the first half.
Without Carney in the second half, Memphis finished with a season-low in points and freshman Sean Banks and Antonio Burks combined for most of them. Banks had 26 points and Burks added 22. Carney finished with five points and six rebounds in 17 minutes.
"The issue becomes other guys stepping up and we are asking Sean Banks to do so much more," Memphis coach John Calipari said. "I'm proud of the way we battled out there. That could have been a 30-point blowout. We had a football player, accountant and receptionist in the ballgame."
Louisville hit 8-of-9 shots out of the gate and raced to a 17-8 lead. But the Tigers scored the next seven points and took their first lead at 22-21 on a three-point play by Duane Erwin with 7:13 left in the half.
Pitino then went to his press and the Cardinals forced seven straight turnovers in an 11-0 run. George capped it with a dunk, giving Louisville a 32-22 lead with 3:01 left in the half.
Memphis committed 15 of its season-high 21 turnovers in the first half and made just 56 percent of its free throws (14-of-25).
But the Tigers got back into the game in the second half when the Cardinals shot under 30 percent from the floor (8-of-27).
"We couldn't press as much in the second half because we didn't make many shots," Pitino said. "But I have to give Memphis credit. They never stopped."
The Cardinals increased the advantage to 48-35 on a 3-pointer by Larry O'Bannon with 11:18 left to play.
But Burks hit a 3-pointer and a pair of jumpers to key a 13-4 spurt which pulled Memphis within 60-56 with 3:27 remaining.
The Tigers had a chance to get closer, but Garcia blocked a shot by Burks with 2:42 left and set up George for a dunk with 34 seconds to go, giving Louisville a 63-57 lead.