for this game

Surging Louisville cruises to sixth straight win

Mar 4, 2007 - 11:10 PM LOUISVILLE, Kentucky (Ticker) -- Freshman Edgar Sosa stole the show on Senior Day.

Sosa scored 18 points as 19th-ranked Louisville overcame a slow start to post an 86-71 triumph over Seton Hall in the Big East Conference regular-season finale for both schools.

It was the sixth straight victory for the Cardinals (22-8, 12-4 Big East), who have the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in next week's conference tournament.

"We are proud to get this victory," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "There were times we didn't expect to be 12-4. As a matter of fact, in the beginning of the year we didn't think we'd be 12-4. We were hoping for 10-6. So we were real proud of the way the season ended."

On a day where four seniors were honored at Freedom Hall, Sosa and fellow freshmen Derrick Caracter and Jerry Smith sparked the Cardinals, combining for 41 points and six 3-pointers.

"We are very pleased," Pitino said. "We have a group of freshmen for every situation; every difficult situation came through for us."

The improved play of the freshman trio has been instrumental in the development of a Louisville team which closed out the regular season with 17 wins in its last 21 contests. The Cardinals won just six conference games last season and failed to make the NCAA Tournament.

Pitino cited a rash of injuries to his veterans as the key reason behind the team's late-season surge.

"I think it is a combination of things," he said. "The injuries hurt us but in one respect, helped us. I don't think we would have ever developed our freshmen as fast as they developed if it wasn't for the injuries. They got playing time in crucial situations where they had to win the game and play so many more minutes than I expected."

Terrence Williams had 15 points and 11 rebounds while David Padgett scored 15 points for Louisville, which shot 48 percent (32-of-67) from the floor. Caracter finished with 13 points while Smith chipped in 10.

The Cardinals stumbled early before managing to build a 44-42 halftime lead. But Louisville wore down the lowly Pirates in the second half and ended the contest on a 12-2 run.

"We have confidence, but we didn't play with great defense tonight," Pitino said. "That's been a staple of ours. In the second half we played much better defense than in the first half."

Brian Laing scored a career-high 29 points and Eugene Harvey added 16 for Seton Hall (13-16, 4-12), which closed out the campaign with 10 losses in its last 12 contests.

"We had nothing to play for but pride, because obviously we got eliminated from the Big East Tournament," Pirates first-year coach Bobby Gonzalez said. "We wanted to go down swinging, go down fighting. That's what our team did all year - that was our identity."