MEMPHIS (Ticker) -- After being held down in the first half due to foul problems, Francisco Garcia came alive when it counted most.
Garcia scored 11 of his 13 points in the second half, including the go-ahead 3-pointer late as No. 6 Louisville won its 17th game in its last 18 outings with a 74-67 victory over Alabama-Birmingham in the semifinals of the Conference USA Tournament.
"I was rooting for my team and mad at myself I was not on the floor and I knew at the end of the game I would be there for them and they were really battling when I was not on the floor," Garcia said. "When teams are pushing me around I really do not feel it because I am playing so hard."
In the first half, Garcia picked up three fouls in the first six minutes of the game and was limited to just one shot.
A 6-7 junior star, Garcia didn't score from the field until 11 1/2 minutes remained when his 3-pointer pulled the Cardinals within 50-49. He drilled another shot from the arc 3 1/2 minutes later to tie the score at 54-54, then converted a follow shot on the Cardinals' next possession.
After UAB scored six straight points by forcing three turnovers with its full-court press to pull even at 61-61, Garcia's 3-pointer with 3 1/2 minutes left gave the Cardinals the lead for good.
"It (Garcia's shots) definitely deflated our defense," UAB guard Donell Taylor said. "We were playing good defense as a team and he hits those big shots to get them back in it."
The Cardinals sealed the victory by making eight free throws down the stretch.
"You cannot say how well the guys came and played down the stretch," Louisville assistant coach Reggie Theus said. "Taquan Dean probably had double figure rebounds and four or five of those came in the last minute and a half of the game. That is huge. Francisco did not have a lot of rhythm because of foul trouble but still hit big shots down the stretch."
Louisville, which edged UAB, 77-73, earlier this season by scoring the last six points of the game, will be playing for its second tournament conference title Saturday against either South Florida or Memphis.
Dean had 15 points, 11 rebounds and six assists for the Cardinals, but he made just 3-of-11 from the arc. The junior point guard had made 20-of-40 3-pointers in his previous five games.
Ellis Myles added 13 and 10 rebounds for Louisville (28-4), which held a 50-30 advantage on the boards.
"In the last five minutes of the game we have four or five players that can make plays that can rebound and make shots," Theus said. "The fact is we shut them down the stretch and took care of the rebounding aspect of the game so UAB did not get second shots."
Larry O'Bannon, who had averaged 17.4 points on 21-of-40 shooting from the arc in his last nine games, was held to eight points on 2-of-6 on 3-pointers.
Demario Eddins and Donell Taylor each scored 13 points and Marvin McDonald added 12 for UAB (21-10), which shot just 35 percent (23-of-66) but stayed in the game with its disrupting full-court press that forced 22 turnovers.
A 3-pointer by Lorrenzo Wade and four points by Brandon Jenkins provided the Cardinals with a 31-23 lead with two minutes left in the first half before McDonald keyed an 8-2 run with five points to close the half, pulling the Blazers within 33-31.
Taylor scored five points in a 19-7 surge to open the second half to give the Blazers a 49-40 lead. But the Cardinals scored the next six points, capped by Dean's shot from the arc with 12 1/2 minutes remaining.
"I think they had a lot of momentum down the stretch and that is one thing that you need to have to win games," UAB coach Mike Anderson said. "We were up nine but you knew they would come back. ... good teams like Louisville do. We missed a few easy shots and layups, we just didn't get the job done."