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Updated: Thursday, March 4, 2004 12:04 AM EST
NCAA BASKETBALL RECAP
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(24) Louisville 75, Saint Louis 48

ST. LOUIS (Ticker) -- Francisco Garcia scored 15 of his 17 points in the first half as No. 24 Louisville jumped out a big early lead and routed Saint Louis, 75-48, in a Conference USA mismatch.

Garcia sparked the Cardinals, who snapped a four-game road losing streak, to a 40-19 halftime cushion.

Louisville (19-7, 9-6 C-USA) has won consecutive games for the first time since a 16-game winning streak from December 4-January 28. The Cardinals ended a four-game losing streak with a 66-60 victory over Memphis in their last outing.

Reggie Bryant scored 15 points for Saint Louis (15-11, 8-7), which won five of its previous six games against Louisville. The Billikens fell to 6-2 against the Cardinals at the Savvis Center.

"You're never comfortable with the way Saint Louis is capable of shooting the ball, but we were relentless with our defense and very smart executing our offense," Cardinals coach Rick Pitino said.

Louisville dominated from the start as Saint Louis could not handle its pressure, which forced 10 turnovers in each half. Louisville outscored the Billikens 17-0 in points off turnovers.

"Their pressure defense bothered us more than I hoped it would," Saint Louis coach Brad Soderberg said. "Not only on the fullcourt but on the halfcourt. They are a tremendous halfcourt team. Not only are they athletic, but Rick makes them get in a stance and makes everybody work."

The Cardinals limited Saint Louis to under 35 percent shooting (15-of-43) and held a 36-26 rebounding edge. Otis George scored 13 points for Louisville while Kendall Dartez added 12 and 11 rebounds.

"You always look for a silver lining in every situation," Pitino said. "Although we've had one aberration all season, even when injured we've played good basketball."

After shooting 5-of-11 in the first half, Garcia missed all six shots in the second half. He finished just 1-of-11 from 3-point range but his poor shooting did not slow down the Cardinals.

Louisville opened its biggest lead, 75-39, on Dartez's dunk with 4:28 left before Saint Louis scored the game's final nine points.

"They were very impressive and even better than what we'd seen on tape," Soderberg said. "I understand why their RPI is 16. They are going to be a tough out in the NCAA Tournament."


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