By Phil Baker
ESPN 680 Reporter
Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom has been shut down for a few years now, but all you need to do in order to find a good roller coaster is head a few blocks west to the University of Louisville’s campus, because that’s exactly what this season has been.
I am trying to find a topic to stick with for this blog but there is so much to talk about.
It kind of sums up the night when a 6-11 center hit’s his first three pointer of his college career and when a generous measured 5-11 point guard is throwing down a dunk off an alley oop. It was just one of those games.
Peyton Siva was 2-9 from the field and had five turnovers but what Louisville fans should take from this is that he is shooting the ball with confidence and is not getting bothered by missed shots, doesn’t hurt that he dished out nine assists to get other’s involved either.
Russ Smith was, well… Rush Smith. Yet again, Russ was taking some questionable shots but provided the spark UofL needed to get going when the offense was not there, helping out with 11 points.
How big has Gorgui Dieng been for this Cardinal basketball team? His stat line read five points, nine rebounds, seven blocks and three steals in a Sweet 16 win over the number one seed out of the West Michigan State Spartans Thursday night. But the spotlight would also on freshmen Chane Behanan, as he helped dump in 15 points and nine boards and really had his was in the paint.
Although the All-American forward Draymond Green had a solid game helping his team with 13 points and 16 rebounds, he had also had six turnovers and went 5-16 from the field, and at times it looked like he was shot putting the ball at the backboard. Gorgui, Chane, and Jared Swopshire’s toughness in the paint should be noted, even though a lot of those numbers do not come up on the stat sheet, they are improving each and every day.
The Cardinals went into the locker room at the half with a five point lead, and stretched it to 10 points seven minutes into the half and really didn’t look back.
Both teams were playing their best basketball coming into this game and both won their conference tournaments. This game really could have gone either way but Rick Pitino executed his game plan of making sure Gorgui did not get in foul trouble and could play the majority of the game.
With “The Greatest” Muhammad Ali in attendance, it was only appropriate for his hometown Cardinals to deliver a knockout punch.
The Cardinals (29-9) will have to deliver another knockout punch against the Florida Gators on Saturday at 4:30pm for a trip to the Final Four. Let’s just say the coaches are a tad bit similar in their styles of play.
Coach Pitino had some interesting comments when he did his post-game interview with ESPN’s Bob Valvano,
“This will be my 25th anniversary reunion for my final four Providence Team… and I told this (Louisville) team, that we don’t do reunions for Elite Eights or Sweet 16’s… we do them for Final Four’s and Championships… and we want both of those really badly.”
That has to be music to Cardinal fans ears, a hall of fame coach has his team playing their best basketball of the season right now, and at time of the year anyone can win it. You can hear the motivation in Rick Pitino’s voice, you see the motivation of the players on the court, and will it translate into a deeper run into March / early April? Only time will tell.
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