GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP)—Francisco Garcia did just about everything for No. 13 Louisville on Saturday.
The junior forward finished with 19 points, eight rebounds, five steals and four assists, and the Cardinals withstood a late rally to beat Florida 74-70.
Garcia also became the team’s biggest supporter in the closing minutes. He cheered from the bench, argued calls and even served water during timeouts.
“I was focused on supporting my teammates,” said Garcia, who fouled out with 1:40 to play. “I had confidence in them.”
Garcia made several huge baskets in the second half, Taquan Dean added 22 points despite leg cramps and coach Rick Pitino improved to 20-1 against former assistant coaches and players. Pitino also extended his record to 6-0 against Billy Donovan.
Dean and Garcia helped stake the Cardinals (5-1) to a 12-point lead in the second half. Florida came back and had several opportunities to move ahead late.
But the Gators (5-2) took several poor shots and committed an intentional foul down the stretch that cost them a chance to win the game.
“It was a constant fight to get back into it, and we could never get over the hump,” Donovan said.
Garcia ended just about every run Florida made.
His dunk to open the second half gave the Cards a 39-33 lead. He later made three key plays on consecutive possessions that gave Louisville its biggest lead.
He banked in a fall-away jumper, took a charge on the ensuing drive and then drew a foul on a 3-pointer and made all three free throws. He kicked his right leg into Matt Walsh as he ran by, and the official called Walsh for a foul.
The series gave Louisville a 51-39 advantage.
The Gators clawed their way back into the game despite shooting 4-of-22 from 3-point range. They cut the lead to 54-52 with about 10 minutes to play, then Garcia responded with an acrobatic reverse layup. The Cards extended the lead to 65-58 on Dean’s fourth 3-pointer.
“We had a very difficult time guarding them off the dribble,” Donovan said.
Still, the Gators had chances in the closing minutes—with Garcia out of the game and Dean slowed by cramps.
Freshman Taurean Green missed a running one-hander in the lane that bounced hard off the backboard. Forward David Lee, a senior who entered the game 0-2 from 3-point range, shot an airball from beyond the arc with 35 seconds to play and the Gators down just three. He also missed another 3-pointer earlier in the second half.
Adrian Moss may have had made the biggest mistake. He turned the ball over with a bad pass, then intentionally fouled Brandon Jenkins on the other end with a minute to play.
The Cards were 5-of-10 from the free throw line down the stretch, helping keep Florida in the game, until Juan Palacios sank two with 5 seconds remaining to seal the victory.
“If we would have made the kind of 3s that we usually make, we probably would have won by seven or eight points,” said Florida’s Walsh, who missed all four shots from behind the arc but finished with 14 points.
Lee led the Gators with 18 points and nine rebounds. Anthony Roberson added 15 points.
Louisville made nine of its first 10 shots in the game and opened the game making its first four shots from behind the arc—two from Dean and two from Garcia.
“They’re a great combination, certainly a great tandem,” Pitino said. “We’re very excited about those two guys.”