Louisville goes cold as its three stars miss shot to upset Illinois

Garcia, O'Bannon, Dean held to 28 points

coach blasts Heels at halftime


NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament

April 03, 2005|By Jeff Zrebiec and Paul McMullen | Jeff Zrebiec and Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

ST. LOUIS - Francisco Garcia was 2-for-10 and scored a season-low four points. Taquan Dean hit four of 15 shots and Larry O'Bannon connected on just four of 10.

Louisville's three top players normally account for just under 45 points, but last night, in Illinois' 72-57 victory, the trio managed just 28.

And even with the 18-point second half of junior forward Roger Powell Jr. and Luther Head's four second-half three pointers, Illinois coach Bruce Weber felt that the decisive factor was how Illinois contested Louisville's shots.

"Our guys did a great job," said Weber. "Deron [Williams] did a great job, along with Luther in different stretches, of not letting Garcia get going - really disrupted them. We watched the film of Memphis [against Louisville]. They were the team that gave them the most trouble. Memphis fought them. They were aggressive. We tried to simulate that."

Garcia apparently didn't feel that the Cardinals' shooting struggles - they shot just 38.9 percent for the game - had much to do with the defense.

"We were taking some great shots," said Garcia. "We had some good looks. I think the [dome] background made it hard for us to pick up the basket. It made it look a lot closer than it was. We kept hitting it short. This is our fault."

Meanwhile, Louisville's zone defense did its job in the first half, goading the Fighting Illini to take 19 first-half three-pointers. Weber was pleased that his team took only 11 threes in the second half and at one point, forced Rick Pitino to go away from his zone defense and switch to man-to-man.

"We thought at halftime we didn't attack the zone as aggressively as we should have," said Weber. "We thought once we got to them, made them go man, we could run our plays, get the ball inside, get our quick-hitters."

Williams rips Tar Heels

Several North Carolina players said after last night's 87-71 victory over Michigan State, that the impetus for the Tar Heels' dominant second half was a sharp halftime tongue-lashing from coach Roy Williams, who felt that his players weren't competing hard enough. Williams singled out star swing man Rashad McCants and reserve guard Melvin Scott for their lack of effort on loose balls.

"In the first half, I was so mad at Rashad and Melvin, and our guys not getting on the floor for loose balls and taking charges and boxing out," said Williams. "And I screamed at [McCants] and Melvin one time at the end because they let [Maurice] Ager get open for a three in the corner. They were both pointing at each other like, `it's not my man.' I said I didn't care, `it's North Carolina's man.'"

McCants declined to elaborate on what was said at halftime, only acknowledging that the coaches did all the talking.

"It was interesting to see how we reacted," said McCants. "Sometimes, certain guys pick it up. But for us everybody picked it up. I just think everybody was nervous in the first half."

Added point guard Raymond Felton: "How animated was he? He got the point across, let me put it like that."

Big Ten unites

At one point in the second half of Illinois' victory over Louisville, the Michigan State fans joined in one of Illinois' cheers. After the game, the Illinois cheerleaders worked their way over in front of the Spartans' rooting section and started to chant, "Let's go State."

The display of Big Ten camaraderie caused several Atlantic Coast Conference media members to wonder aloud if that would have happened if Duke and North Carolina or Duke and Maryland were in the Final Four.

Last night marked the seventh time in NCAA tournament history that the Big Ten has had two teams in the Final Four.

Scott enjoys view

Scott has enjoyed a room with a view at the Final Four, as the North Carolina team hotel is across Interstate 70 from the national park that surrounds the Gateway Arch.

"My room faces the arch, and every day I open the blinds and take a picture," said Scott, who set up his digital movie camera in his locker Friday and documented the questions he faced during media sessions. "I'm a city boy; you don't see stuff like that every day."

An All-Metro guard at Southern High, Scott, who played 16 minutes in last night's semifinal win, is attempting to extend the string of Baltimoreans with NCAA rings. Maryland's Juan Dixon and Syracuse's Carmelo Anthony were named Most Outstanding Players in the 2002 and 2003 tournaments, respectively, and Josh Boone played well for Connecticut last season.

The faith of Bridget Scott, Melvin's mother, in the Tar Heels was answered, as she did not attend regional wins in Charlotte, N.C., and Syracuse, N.Y. Last night, she had a front-row seat at the Edward Jones Dome, across from the North Carolina bench.

"I'm real, real happy to be here," Mrs. Scott said.

Et cetera

The crowd of 47,754 was the seventh largest single-game or session attendance for an NCAA Final Four and the largest to ever see a basketball game in the Edward Jones Dome. ... Luther Head's six three-pointers were the most in a national semifinal since Arizona's Mike Bibby made six against North Carolina in 1997.

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