Ga. Tech pounds way to win over Geo. Wash.

After a scare, Louisville tops La.-Lafayette, 68-62

Ncaa Regional

Albuquerque

March 19, 2005|By David Steele | David Steele,SUN STAFF

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Georgia Tech guards that got the team to the national title game last year and the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament final on Sunday, did what they do best yet again last night. This time, in their NCAA tournament game at Gaylord Entertainment Center, they pushed their team past a George Washington team that likes the same fast tempo, to win, 80-68, and move into the second round of the Albuquerque Regional.

Will Bynum, Jarrett Jack and B.J. Elder combined to score 52 points, and sparked the surge by fifth-seeded Georgia Tech midway through the second half that finally put 12th-seeded George Washington, the Atlantic-10 tournament champion (and victor over Michigan State and Maryland in Washington in December), at arm's length.

The trio scored all of Tech's points in a 14-2 run that padded a 55-54 lead with 11:38 left to 69-56 with 5:51 to go. That was the first double-digit lead of the game for either team; the lead had changed hands nine times and there had been three ties before then.

Bynum started the run by intercepting a cross-court pass, driving from midcourt and coaxing in a layup while being fouled by the Colonials' J. R. Pinnock, soaring in to try to block it. Bynum missed the ensuing free throw, but the play threw the Georgia Tech offense and defense into another gear. George Washington closed to within a point again with 9:32 left, but didn't score again for nearly four minutes while Tech scored 12 in a row.

Having conquered one perimeter-oriented, tempo-pushing opponent, Georgia Tech (20-10) now faces another in Louisville tomorrow in the second round. George Washington - the only team from the Baltimore-Washington area to make the tournament - finished 22-8.

Jack led all scorers with 20 points. Bynum, whose 35 points against North Carolina got Georgia Tech into the ACC final in Washington, scored 17 (including three three-pointers) and Elder added 15. Pops Mensah-Bonsu led George Washington with 15 points.

The Colonials last led 45-44 at 2:21 into the second half, but the Yellow Jackets took the lead for good on two free throws by 7-foot-1 Luke Schenscher, who spent much of the night in foul trouble.

Louisville 68, Louisiana-Lafayette 62: The Cardinals and their legion of followers have spent the last few days bemoaning Louisville's No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament.

The Cardinals nearly whined and whimpered their way right out of the tournament in the first round last night.

The Cardinals got a wake-up call from No. 13-seeded Louisiana-Lafayette, but rallied in the final two minutes to advance into the second round of the Albuquerque Regional.

Louisville's Francisco Garcia hit all seven of his free throws in those final two minutes and finished with a game-high 27 points. Louisville (30-4) benefited from a couple of favorable calls and made 10 free throws in the final 3:43 to secure the win.

Rick Pitino was obviously impressed with the Ragin' Cajuns (20-11), calling them perhaps the most challenging first-round opponent one of his teams has ever faced. Lafayette came into the game with four starters who transferred from larger Division I schools.

The Orlando Sentinel, a Tribune Publishing newspaper, contributed to this article.

Regional highlights

Top performer: Louisville's Francisco Garcia scored 27 points and was 9-for-9 from the free-throw line.

Big surprise: George Washington was 4-for-16 from the free-throw line in its 80-68 loss to Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets were 17-for-22.

He said it: "I told our guys at halftime, `If you think you're going to blow this team out, you're sadly mistaken.' " - Louisville coach Rick Pitino

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