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I love watching the University of Louisville's Francisco Garcia play. And it must be even more fun for the Cardinals who get to play with him. All they have to do is run the floor with him and be alert because, if they are open, he'll sneak a pass to them.

Garcia is totally unselfish. While scoring 25 points in U of L's 107-62 romp at Southern Mississippi, he played some of the most beautiful basketball I have ever seen.

The junior took just nine shots, hitting seven. He was eight for eight at the free-throw line, but the number that stands out most is eight assists. He was perfect on treys, three for three.

All that in just 20 minutes. That's right. He played just half the game.

No wonder the pro scouts are drooling over him.

Against Cincinnati, Garcia didn't score a point in the first half, but he saved his sixth assist for a clinching basket by Larry O'Bannon, wide open under the basket. U of L, which erased a 17-point first-half deficit, won 69-66 for its first win in Cincinnati since 1999.

University of Kentucky fans will be interested in learning that Southern Miss' leading scorer was none other than ex-Wildcat Rashaad Carruth, who matched Garcia's 25 points. But Carruth shot 21 times, 12 more than Garcia, and he played the full 40 minutes.


Crawford returns

Without getting into another who's right-who's wrong argument, I was sorry to see another college athlete vs. university establishment conflict emerge from Joe Crawford's departure from the UK's basketball team.

You know who's going to lose in this battle, the athlete, and that's why he chose to return.

Remember, I told you recently that coaches can sign contract after contract, but can up and leave for more money anytime they please. But athletes have to sit out a year - or in Crawford's case, maybe lose two years of eligibility.

Seeing the other two McDonald's All-Americans (Randolph Morris and Rajon Rondo) get the starting nod from Tubby Smith had to burn Crawford. We live in a time of instant gratification and McDonald's All-Americans aren't supposed to sit the bench, especially when two others start.


Class acts by UK

By far the best thing UK has done this basketball season was to have Clarence "Big House" Gaines as an honored guest for the Kansas game. The Paducah native won 828 games as coach of Winston-Salem State, an NCAA Division II school in North Carolina.

As a member of the selection committee for the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame, I'm ashamed that he isn't a member. But I'll keep trying. That's a promise.

UK also had four of its greatest players back as honorary captains, Dan Issel, Louie Dampier, Kyle Macy and Rex Chapman.

Surely the Denver Nuggets will come to their senses and restore Issel to the head coaching job. The NBA team is on its second head coach this season, and the second one isn't doing any better than the first. The man who is the leading career scorer and rebounder in UK history has more than paid for his unfortunate reply to a beered-up fan.


Happy James Dickey

It wouldn't be hard to find the happiest assistant coach in all of college basketball. It has to be James Dickey, who was all smiles on the Oklahoma State bench as Eddie Sutton's team whipped Bobby Knight's Texas Tech 76-66 in Lubbock Jan. 8.

Dickey was fired by Texas Tech to make room for Knight.

You probably remember that Dickey was Sutton's top aide when they were at UK. It was no secret that Dickey carried the load while Sutton was battling through his problem with the bottle.

Sutton prevailed and now has one of the best teams in the nation. He will turn over the head job to his son Sean, the ex-Wildcat guard, after this season and Dickey will become the top assistant. But don't be surprised if he lands a head job of his own. He's quality person and a quality coach.


Tennessee's problems

This is Buzz Peterson's fourth season as Tennessee's coach and he still is battling uphill, with his overall record slightly above .500.

He lost to Vanderbilt 88-63 and drew just 14,666 fans. The huge arena (24,535) continues to be an albatross around Peterson's neck. If there were any fans at all in the upper deck, they were hiding from the TV cameras.

The next day UK drew 24,367 for its game with Kansas in 23,000-seat Rupp Arena.


Tuberville: Class act

Tommy Tuberville has to be as classy a college coach as there is. The Auburn coach was in Louisville for the American Football Coaches Association's national convention last week and to pick up his Coach of the Year award.

He had nothing but nice things to say about U of L coach Bobby Petrino, who secretly met with Auburn officials who were trying to hire him as Tuberville's replacement. That happened during the 2003 season.

But when word leaked out about the meeting, Tuberville's job actually was saved and he wound up with a 13-0 team this past season.

"Bobby Petrino is a good fri/files/storyimages/and he did a great job for me (when he was an Auburn assistant)," said Tuberville. "He made me a better coach and I hope that I helped him."

At last report, Tuberville and Petrino did not meet during the Louisville convention. Strange.


Happy anniversary

Gil Sturtzel, who captained U of L's first bowl team, Frank Camp's 9-1 Cards in 1957, and his wife Barbara recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.

The Cards defeated Drake 34-20 in the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas.

No Cardinal has been more loyal to U of L down through the years than Gil. If a U of L practice ever started without Gil, coach Petrino probably would cancel it.


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