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December 21, 2005
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Jenkins scored a career-high 20 points, including a key 3-pointer with 3:13 to go, to lead the 11th-ranked Cardinals to a 76-68 victory over Middle Tennessee State in the opening round of the Billy Minardi Classic on Tuesday night.
Louisville (7-1) will play the College of Charleston in the final on Wednesday night. The Blue Raiders (5-3) will play Florida Atlantic, which lost 90-73 to the College of Charleston, in the consolation game.
After watching his team, Dean in particular, struggle in a loss at Kentucky on Saturday, Pitino decided to give the steady Gianiny his first career start.
Dean hardly looked relieved, struggling to finish with 10 points on 3-of-9 shooting and turning the ball over three times.
Jenkins, who scored just six points in the loss at Kentucky, filled the void. After the Blue Raiders pulled within 66-63, he calmly drained an open 3-pointer to push the lead to six. A minute later, his driving layup gave the Cardinals a 71-64 lead and they improved to 7-0 in the 4-year history of the tournament.
"Taquan was rusty, couldn't find his groove so I just tried to attack the basket," said Jenkins, who had five assists. "It was a bizarre game. If we could have played defense in the second half, we would have put them away."
Adam Vogelsberg led five Middle Tennessee players in double figures with 14 points, and the Blue Raiders rallied after coach Kermit Davis was ejected after picking up two technical fouls with 15:55 to play.
The technicals seemed like a surprise to Davis, who went over to Pitino and shook his hand during a timeout before exiting the court.
"I don't know, (the referee) just wanted to throw me out and he threw me out," Davis said. "So I haven't been thrown out in a long time. You'd like to get your money's worth more than that."
Dean hit four free throws to put the Cardinals up 47-34 after Davis' exit, but the Blue Raiders rallied, getting within three with 4:23 left before Jenkins and David Padgett keyed a late 8-1 run.
"I had to come out and be aggressive in the second half and not get in foul trouble," said Padgett, who finished with a career-high 18 points. "It seemed we'd get in the rhythm and then there'd be a stop in play."
The teams combined for 53 fouls and 67 free throws, bringing both coaches off the bench at times in exasperation.
"That was one of the most bizarre games I've ever seen," Pitino said. "I'm not sure what went on out there. I have to watch the film. It was an interesting night. (NBA commissioner) David Stern would fine me for what I'm thinking right now. I'm not going to say it. I'm so out of whack, I don't know who played or did what, I'm confused."
The Cardinals held Middle Tennessee to 33 percent shooting from the field in the first half and forced 10 turnovers, but the Blue Raiders trailed just 40-31 thanks to 17-of-23 shooting from the free throw line.For more coverage of the Louisville Cardinals, check out CardinalReport.com.