It was pretty. It was ugly. Then it was pretty ugly but the Louisville Cardinals were able to maintain a lead throughout the entire game to defeat Marquette 84-71 Thursday night.
The Cardinals seemed to have the game in control after pulling out to an early 19-6 lead with just over fourteen minutes remaining in the first half. The momentum changed drastically however after Louisville center Gorgui Dieng was called for a loose ball foul despite the replay showing minimal contact. Dieng was then hit with a technical foul after placing the ball on the court in an aggressive manner.
“Gorgui made a terrible mistake mentally,” head coach Rick Pitino told ESPN reporters at halftime. “I don’t think he realized that the technical acted as another personal foul.”
Without Dieng’s defensive presence, the Golden Eagles made a run and were able to close the game within one point which mirrored the scenario in the two teams’ regular season matchup. However, Louisville was able to storm back and take a 50-40 lead at the half in large part because of the play of point guard Peyton Siva.
Siva kept his team in the driver’s seat by scoring 11 points in the first half while accumulating 5 assists and 3 steals. The junior point guard finished the game with 18 points, 6 assists, 8 rebounds and 4 steals.
The Cardinals started the second half painfully flat, going 2-of-20 from the field. Despite not registering a field goal in the first six minutes of the half, the Cardinals were able to maintain the lead because of offensive rebounding and strong defense. Louisville’s 23 offensive boards allowed them to attempt an astonishing 77 shots while defensively, the Cardinals forced 26 Marquette turnovers with guard Junior Cadougan committing 8 of them.
“Offense isn’t a big thing to us,” Siva told ESPN reporters at the end of the game. “Defense is what we’re all about.”
Along with Siva, three other Cardinals logged double-digit performances including senior forward Kyle Kuric who led the team with 20 points and Chane Behanan and Russ Smith who both registered 12 points. Junior forward Jared Swopshire also chimed in with 8 points with 12 rebounds.
The Cardinals now advance to the Big East semifinals where they’ll meet the winner of Notre Dame and South Florida Friday at 9pm on ESPN. The Cardinals lost to both teams in the regular season. No matter which team Louisville plays, it seems like Pitino realizes that it’ll be more difficult to increase the tempo of the next game.
“If it’s Notre Dame, you’ll get the burn offense,” he said. “If it’s South Florida, it’s a root canal.”
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.