O'Bannon's play does his talking

December 19, 2004|HAL MORRIS

LOUISVILLE - Sitting in front of his locker at Freedom Hall Saturday, the last thing Larry O'Bannon looked like he wanted to do was talk.

He didn't want to talk about his team-high 16 points, and he didn't want to talk about his two free throws that gave Louisville a one-point lead with 15.2 seconds left.

All that mattered to him was Louisville lost to Kentucky 60-58.

With all the talk about Kentuckian Patrick Sparks keying the Wildcats' win with three free throws with .6 seconds remaining, it was Louisville's hometown player that kept his Cards in the game and nearly won it for them.

But all of that was lost on the senior guard, who was part of coach Rick Pitino's first recruiting class at Louisville.


"Yeah, but we lost. It doesn't make a difference. We lost the game and that's what counts. We lost, and I didn't do enough," he said softly, just shaking his head like he still couldn't believe the Cardinals blew a 16-point lead and lost.

Without the senior, the Cardinals would not have had a shot at victory. Almost every time Louisville needed O'Bannon to do something, he did it. He grabbed four rebounds, blocked two shots and made all six of his free throw attempts.

After Sparks made three free throws to give Kentucky a two-point edge, O'Bannon took a pass from Francisco Garcia and launched a desperation half-court shot at the buzzer that was off the mark.

It was one of the few times he didn't make the play, but it was fitting that the player who kept his team in the game should get a shot to win it.

Praise from his teammates

And while O'Bannon wouldn't talk much about his game, his teammates did.

"It's his last game against UK. It's my last game against UK," said center Ellis Myles, who had eight points and a game-high 10 rebounds. "He played well. He showed up tonight."

From the outset, O'Bannon showed up.

He had an assist on Louisville's first score of the game, finding Juan Palacios down low. On consecutive possessions with the shot clock winding down, O'Bannon pulled up and drained jumpers, the second a 3-pointer that gave Louisville a 20-10 lead.

His two foul shots gave Louisville a 34-18 lead with 18:12 remaining in the game. And after a pair of 3-pointers by Kelenna Azubuike cut that lead to 10, O'Bannon answered with a 3-pointer to push the lead back to 13 at 37-24.

He also made plays on defense, swooping in to block a Sparks shot and sending the ball several rows into the stands behind the basket.

"Larry played very good. He got us going, I'm proud of him. He's come a long way," said Francisco Garcia, who scored eight points. "And that's good for him that he's playing like that."

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