CHICAGO (Ticker) -- Coming off the best performance of his career, Larry O'Bannon continued his torrid shooting and enabled ninth-ranked Louisville to accomplish a first.
O'Bannon scored 18 of his 24 points in the second half as the Cardinals clinched the Conference USA title for the first time with a 66-62 victory over DePaul.
Setting a school record by scoring 26 of his career-high 33 points in the first half of a 94-82 victory over Charlotte on senior night Thursday, O'Bannon continued his stellar shooting from 3-point range, making a pair of clutch shots from the arc down the stretch to silence a crowd attempting to will bubble team DePaul into the NCAA Tournament.
"Typical loud road arena, but DePaul's team made it tougher for us than the crowd," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "We were able to answer their big shots with some big shots and big threes of our own."
After Sammy Mejia gave the Blue Demons a 53-51 lead on a follow shot with 6:28 remaining, O'Bannon wrapped two baskets from the arc in between a 3-pointer by Taquan Dean to give the Cardinals (26-4, 14-2 C-USA) a 60-57 advantage with 4:33 to play.
"I didn't think about taking over the game, my teammates just found me and I made some shots," O'Bannon said.
DePaul (18-9, 10-6) closed within 60-59 on a breakaway layup by Mejia with three minutes remaining, but Francisco Garcia made two free throws and O'Bannon added four from the stripe in the final 58 seconds to seal Louisville's first conference title in its final campaign. Next season, both teams will move to the Big East Conference.
"It was just a game where we had to make big shots and luckily we did," Pitino said.
O'Bannon finished 7-of-7 from the line to highlight a 13-of-14 performance on free throws for the Cardinals. On the other hand, the Blue Demons, who entered the game averaging 19 trips to the stripe, went just 6-of-8.
O'Bannon, who shot 5-of-9 from the arc in the win against Charlotte, finished 5-of-5 from 3-point range and Dean scored 11 points for the Cardinals, who ended the regular season by winning 15 of 16 games. Overall, Louisville shot 52 percent (11-of-21) on 3-pointers.
Attempting to counter the Cardinals' outside shooting, DePaul went inside. Quemont Greer had nine points and nine rebounds and Marlon Brumfield added six boards, including three offensive, for the Blue Demons, who held a 28-16 advantage in points in the paint and grabbed 12 offensive rebounds.
"I couldn't ask for much more from our guys in terms of effort," DePaul coach Dave Leitao said. "They did a good job on execution, but we made a few more unforced errors. When you play good teams, they do those things."
DePaul finished with 10 turnovers that Louisville converted in 11 points.
Mejia scored 21 points and Drake Diener chipped in 15 for the Blue Demons, who lost at home for the first time in eight conference games.
"Its tough to deal with losing the last two games, and not defending our home floor which we normally do," Diener said.