NASHVILLE, Tenn. - In a dominating performance from start to finish, Louisville easily glided past Georgia Tech with a 76-54 win yesterday to advance into Thursday's Sweet 16 game against top-seeded Washington.
The Cardinals led by double digits less than five minutes into the game, quickly ending fifth-seeded Georgia Tech's hope for a repeat trip to the national championship game.
"Somebody told me this is a four-seed," Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt said of Louisville. "You're nuts. You're absolutely nuts."
The Cardinals are indeed a No. 4 seed, but they certainly didn't play like it.
Forward Francisco Garcia scored 18 of his game-high 21 points in the first half, propelling his team into the next round for the first time since 1997.
A deadly combination of rebounding and scoring kept Louisville in control of its lead throughout the game.
The Cardinals made 62.5 percent of their shots and out-rebounded the Yellow Jackets by 15.
"Our focus coming into the game was to just rebound the ball," Garcia said. "We knew coming into the game that they were strong and physical. We had to go to the boards."
Despite returning almost everyone from last season's team that lost to Connecticut in the NCAA title game, Georgia Tech had trouble handling Louisville's 2-3 zone defense.
The best spurt Georgia Tech could muster against the Cardinals' suffocating defense came midway through the second half.
The Yellow Jackets managed to cut the lead to nine when B.J. Elder and Will Bynum hit consecutive three-pointers.
But that was as close as Georgia Tech would come to the lead, as the Cardinals quickly answered with a 13-2 run.
"Coach [Rick Pitino] told us they were going to make a run," Louisville senior Larry O'Bannon said. "We knew they were going to make a run, and then we'd make our run. We just needed to play good defense."
Georgia Tech's offense also never managed to get ignited.
Center Luke Schenscher made six of eight shots for a team-leading 13 points. Jarrett Jack finished with 11 points, but no other Yellow Jacket finished in double digits in scoring.
As a team, Georgia Tech shot just 37.7 percent.
Louisville also continued to prove it might have deserved a better seeding, which some expected after the team won the Conference USA tournament.
The Cardinals will have a chance to prove that's the case in Albuquerque, N.M., in the Sweet 16.
"[Washington] is a No. 1 seed, so you know they're a pretty good team," O'Bannon said. "I know they're a great transitional team."
The Orlando Sentinel is a Tribune Publishing newspaper. The Associated Press contributed to this article.
GEORGIA TECH-Elder 1-5 0-1 3, McHenry 0-4 0-0 0, Schenscher 6-8 1-2 13, Jack 4-8 1-1 11, Bynum 3-10 0-0 8, Muhammad 0-3 0-0 0, Dickey 1-1 2-2 4, West 0-0 2-2 2, Morrow 3-9 2-2 9, Smith 2-5 0-0 4, Fredrick II 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-53 8-10 54.
LOUISVILLE-Palacios 3-7 5-6 12, Garcia 5-11 8-10 21, Myles 2-3 5-8 9, Dean 5-8 0-0 14, O'Bannon 5-7 4-4 16, Wade 1-1 0-0 2, Jenkins 0-2 0-0 0, Gianiny 0-2 0-0 0, P.Johnson 0-0 0-0 0, George 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 22-42 22-28 76.
Half-Louisville, 45-30. 3-point goals-Georgia Tech 6-16 (Jack 2-3, Bynum 2-7, Elder 1-3, Morrow 1-3), Louisville 10-21 (Dean 4-6, Garcia 3-7, O'Bannon 2-3, Palacios 1-1, Gianiny 0-2, Jenkins 0-2). Fouled out-None. Rebounds-Georgia Tech 22 (Schenscher 5), Louisville 37 (Palacios 11). Assists-Georgia Tech 11 (Jack 6), Louisville 10 (O'Bannon 3). Total fouls-Georgia Tech 21, Louisville 15. A-17,286.
Top performer: Francisco Garcia scored 21 points in Louisville's 76-54 win over Georgia Tech.
Big surprise: Though Georgia Tech returned almost everyone from last season's team that played in the NCAA title game, the Jackets looked like rookies against a 2-3 zone.
He said it: "Somebody told me this is a four seed ... you're absolutely nuts." - Tech coach Paul Hewitt on facing No. 4 seed Louisville.