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Updated: Friday, March 12, 2004 1:40 AM EST
NCAA BASKETBALL RECAP
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(12) Cincinnati 64, Louisville 62

CINCINNATI (Ticker) -- Cincinnati executed to perfection when it counted most.

Armein Kirkland scored in the lane off a pass from Jason Maxiell on a textbook pick-and-roll play with 16 seconds left to lift the 12th-ranked Bearcats to a 64-62 victory over Louisville in the quarterfinals of the Conference USA tournament.

Maxiell had been called for goaltending on a drive by Taquan Dean with 49 seconds remaining, enabling Louisville to tie the game at 62-62.

But Maxiell, who finished with 15 points, made up for the defensive mistake with his high-low feed to the 6-8 Kirkland, who capitalized on his five-inch height advantage over Dean and banked in a short shot.

"We had a mismatch," said Kirkland, who finished with 12 points. "It's a play we practiced but never used in a game."

"They had Dean on Armein. I thought we had the better matchup," Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins said.

Louisville opted not to call a timeout after the go-ahead basket and appeared rattled on its final possession. Dean dribbled away most of the clock before passing to Francisco Garcia near the top of the key. Garcia was quickly double-teamed and made a return pass to Dean, who threw up a 3-point attempt that hit the backboard.

"I rushed that last shot when I had more time and I faded back a little bit when I shot it," said Dean, who made just 2-of-9 shots and finished with five points. "If I could take that shot again, I would."

"There is no one in America I would rather have take that shot than Taquan Dean," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said.

But Garcia was the only hot shooter for Louisville, scoring a career-high 28 points on 10-of-14 shooting. The rest of the Cardinals made just 9-of-39 shots.

"I felt pretty good out there tonight," Garcia said. "But I have confidence in Taquan and I know he will make that shot every time."

Garcia's previous career-high was 27 in a February 21 overtime loss at Cincinnati. Louisville won the first meeting on January 21, 93-66.

Cincinnati (22-6), which finished in a five-way tie for first-place in the regular season, will play Saint Louis in the semifinals. The tournament is being played at U.S. Bank Arena near the Cincinnati campus.

"It was like being on our homecourt," Maxiell said. "We used it to our advantage and the game came out our way."

Despite the loss, Louisville (20-9) appears likely to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Cardinals rank 21st in the simulated RPI ratings and own wins over Cincinnati, Kentucky and Florida.


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