Dec. 13, 2003
For Francisco Garcia, the 94x50 basketball court was an escape.
Louisville's super soph learned of the tragic murder of his brother in New York earlier this week. He played with a heavy heart against Seton Hall on Wednesday, went to the funeral and then came back to compete against Florida on Saturday, scoring 21 points.
Louisville coach Rick Pitino earned his 400th career win by beating the Gators and his protegé, Billy Donovan. But the focal point on the court was Garcia -- he's the key to success for the Cardinals. The offense runs through him, and he showed time and time again that he isn't a one-dimensional player.
Rick Pitino earned his 400th career win by beating the Gators.
Garcia makes his teammates better the way he creates plays with his quickness, drives to the basket and passes so well. He has vastly improved this season. He was picked as the Conference USA preseason player of the year for good reason.
Louisville executed in the half-court sets when it wasn't running on the break. Give the Cardinals lots of credit for playing with a purpose.
On a much different scale, it also was a tough week for Donovan after Florida lost to Maryland in overtime on Wednesday. Florida looked passive at times and did not seem very happy for a top-ranked club. It looked to me as if Florida's players were overly concerned with impressing their coach.
The Gators were thinking too much on every play rather than reacting to what was happening. At times Florida was a team of Kodak men, standing around and watching. Remember, Florida has lost lots of talent. There's no Matt Bonner, no Brett Nelson and no Justin Hamilton, who was the glue of the team and an unsung key last season.
Things won't get easier for Florida when their SEC season starts Jan. 7 at South Carolina. The Gamecocks, Auburn, Mississippi State and LSU all got off to quick starts. And Kentucky is undefeated and the team to beat in the SEC.
So it's back to the drawing board for Florida. There's talent on the roster, and Donovan will get his team back on track.
Pitino had to be proud of the performance of Garcia against the Gators. Garcia showed great shooting range and performed astoundingly well in an emotional test.
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