By Sam Draut–
The No. 10 University of Louisville men’s basketball team defeated Seton Hall 79-61 on Saturday at the KFC Yum! Center. The 22-5 Cardinals were led by junior center Gorgui Dieng, who finished with a career high 23 points and added eight rebounds.
Dieng finished 10-11 from the field, and his career day was highlight by 14 points off mid-ranged jump shots.
“He’s been doing it at practice almost every single day. He’s worked very hard on that aspect of his game,” head coach Rick Pitino said.
“I was very frustrated because I worked so hard in the summer to get that shot, I started making it at the beginning of the season, then I broke my wrist. I came back and I was missing it, kept missing it,” Dieng said. “Coach told me, ‘I know you can make it, don’t worry about it. If you miss it, you miss it.’”
Junior guard Russ Smith contributed with 19 points and five assists, going 10 for 10 from the free throw line.
“We need Russ Smith because when the other team plays us well, we need somebody to create,” Pitino said.
Junior forward Luke Hancock came off the bench and finished with 13 points and three assists, going three of three from behind the arch.
Pitino was complimentary of Hancock, saying he is one of the toughest kids he has ever coached. Hancock has dealt with a shoulder injury since last April.
Sophomore guard Kevin Ware has also provided a spark off the bench. He finished with 8 points and three assists, while averaging 6.4 points over the past five games.
“He’s been playing really well, been active defensively and we don’t lose anything when we substitute him, a lot of times defensively we gain, because he’s very good with the scouting report,” Pitino said.
It was a homecoming for two individuals on 13-15 Seton Hall. Head coach Kevin Willard was a longtime assistant for Pitino at U of L and sophomore guard Aaron Cosby grew up in Louisville. Cosby led the Pirates in scoring with 17 points, while Willard was reverent towards the Cardinals.
“I had so many great experiences here with the guys that played here. I think this team is as good as any team he has had because I think they can go deep when they need to,” Willard said. “You never know who is going to get you. Tonight, it was Gorgui and when your center is doing that you’re going to be a dangerous basketball team.”
The Cards’ current three-game winning streak is a testament to their stout defense, and Saturday was no different.
“We played really good defense and didn’t put them to the free throw line,” Pitino said.
Louisville sits a game back of first place in the Big East going into the final stretch of the regular season. The Cardinals have four more games left, road trips to DePaul and Syracuse, and two home games versus Cincinnati and Notre Dame.
Potentially peaking at the right time, the Cards look to claim their second Big East regular season title, their first coming in 2009.
“Everyone’s getting comfortable and everyone knows what we have to do to win,” sophomore forward Wayne Blackshear said.
Photo by Austin Lassell/The Louisville Cardinal