If you were watching Friday night’s game between Louisville and Connecticut without the assistance of a scoreboard graphic, you would have assumed the game was long over at halftime. However, it took until midway through the second half for the Cards to bust it wide open and defeat the Huskies 71-58.
The Cardinals zone defense made a real statement early, forcing the Huskies to go 2 for 12 from the field 7 minutes into the game and 7 for 25 at the half. Although the Cards appeared to be in complete control, the Huskies stuck around and kept the lead under 10 points going into the half.
It only took 1 minute and 45 seconds into the second half for all the hard work that Cards put into the first half to go down the drain. The Huskies hit three consecutive 3-pointers to start the half and cut the lead down to one point. The two sparred back and forth the next few minutes until the aggressor took hold of the game and never let go.
The electric play of Peyton Siva once again energized a young Louisville team to finish strong. Siva led the team with 15 points but the real story was his 6 steals that led to numerous fast break opportunities for the Cardinals. Louisville’s defense as a whole caused 16 Connecticut turnovers, 12 of which were steals. The Cards constant mixing up of zone defense and full court presses confused the Huskies enough to make them shoot 17 of 50 from the field. UConn’s Kemba Walker scored a modest 16 points but never found the rhythm he was looking for to take over the game.
Another huge positive for the Cards was the stellar play of freshman, Gorgui Dieng. The 6’10 center from Senegal registered some serious minutes and was brilliant in all aspects after Terrence Jennings got into foul trouble. Dieng scored 13 points and collected 12 rebounds after coming off the bench. The big man showed solid footwork on defense as well as excellent offensive awareness that the Cards have been looking for in their big men for a long time. If Dieng grows up sooner than expected, he could play a huge role come tournament time.
It’s the depth the Cardinals possess that could carry them far this year. Their bench scored 35 of their 71 points and collected 3 more rebounds than the starters. Coach Rick Pitino has a luxury that most coaches don’t; he can run 10 players deep at any time. The Cards next game is Tuesday at Rutgers. Tipoff is set for 9:00pm EST.
About the Author
Written by John Buffone
John was born in Rural Valley, Pennsylvania. He attended Clarion University and received a degree in Mass Media Arts and Journalism. He currently hosts "The Sports Zone with John Buffone" on AM 1380 WTYM in Kittanning, PA. John is also a sports columnist for the Kittanning Paper and a contributor to Examiner.com, and CatholicSportsJournal.com.