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Updated: Saturday, March 19, 2005 12:24 AM EST
NCAA BASKETBALL RECAP
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(4) Louisville 68, (13) UL Lafayette 62

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Ticker) -- Louisiana-Lafayette fouled the wrong guy down the stretch.

Francisco Garcia scored 27 points and made all seven of his free-throw attempts in the final two minutes as No. 4 Louisville edged the 13th-seeded Ragin' Cajuns, 68-62, in the first round of the Albuquerque Region.

"At the end of the game, and I am on the line, I just try to blank my mind out and make the shots," said Garcia, who went 9-of-9 from the stripe.

The Cardinals held just a 63-61 lead before Garcia sank a pair of free throws with a minute remaining. After Louisiana-Lafayette's Dwayne Mitchell was whistled for traveling, Louisville's Ellis Myles was fouled but missed two from the line with 41 seconds to play.

After Mitchell split a pair of free throws nine seconds later, the Ragin' Cajuns let the clock tick down until 14 seconds were left before fouling Garcia - an 87 percent shooter from the line. The junior forward calmly sank a pair of free throws for a 67-62 cushion.

"When the game is on the line, there is no one I'd rather see on the line than Francisco Garcia," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "Francisco not only made an offensive contribution, he had to guard their best player (Brian Hamilton)."

Mitchell missed two free throws before Louisville's Taquan Dean split a pair with 3.1 seconds left to cap the scoring.

"Down the stretch, we didn't make the plays and Louisville did," Louisiana-Lafayette coach Robert Lee said.

Louisville (30-4), which awaits fifth seed Georgia Tech in the second round on Sunday, recorded its first 30-win season under Rick Pitino and fourth overall.

Hamilton collected 19 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out in the waning seconds for the Ragin' Cajuns (20-11), who won the Sun Belt Conference tournament in Robert Lee's first season as coach.

"I'm proud of the way we played tonight, but we just didn't come out with a win," Hamilton said.

"Our guys played their hearts out, and gave everything they had," Lee said.

Louisville, which felt it deserved better than a No. 4 seed after winning both the regular season and league tournament in Conference USA, shot just 39 percent (22-of-57). The Ragin' Cajuns shot 45 percent (24-of-53).

As from Garcia, the Cardinals made just 9-of-18 free throws, but the Ragin' Cajuns connected on just 10-of-18.

In a game featuring 14 lead changes and nine ties, the Cardinals held a 33-32 advantage at the break.


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