BY MIKE RILEY
He may or may not move on to the NBA next season, but Gorgui Dieng did nothing to hurt his chances on Saturday as No.10 Louisville won its sixth game in seven tries with a 79-61 victory over Seton Hall.
Dieng — a 6-foot-11 junior center — had a career-high 23 points and made 10-of-11 shots from the floor. The Senegalese junior also grabbed eight rebounds and blocked three shots.
Dieng also got a majority of his points from shooting mid-range jump shots, something he’s shown shades of in the past.
“It’s something I’ve been working on very hard since the summer,” Dieng said. “The wrist injury [in the Bahmas] set me back some, but it’s better now. I’m not thinking about the NBA. All I’m thinking about now is getting ready for DePaul on Wednesday night.”
“Well, he has been doing it in practice almost every single day,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. “He has worked very hard at that aspect of his game: mid-range jump shot from the baseline. We put in some plays for him, man-to-man wise for that jump shot; not tonight though, because that was a zone. He has been shooting it that well, so it adds a dimension to his game. He just has to do a better job of offensive rebounding.”
In their previous meeting, Dieng scored 16 points, had 14 rebounds and three blocks in a 73-58 Louisville win. However, Pitino noticed a glaring difference between the two games,
“The first game we played them, we let them get to the free-throw line 31 times, he said “Tonight, we played really good defense, and we didn’t put them on the free-throw line. This is going to sound bizarre, and you are just going to say because Kevin [Willard] worked for me that I am saying this comment, but I really mean it sincerely: He is doing one of the best coaching jobs I have seen in some time. What he is doing offensively, and what he is doing defensively to confuse people is awesome. I thought we had a bad situation last year with injuries, I have never seen anything like Kevin’s situation before. He is doing an awesome job.”
Louisville (22-5, 10-4 Big East) was in control for most of the game. The Cardinals led 8-2 in the early going only to trail 10-8. The score was tied at 10 and 12 before Luke Hancock hit the first of his three 3-pointers on the night to give Louisville a 15-12 lead. It was a lead the Cards would not lose.
Louisville led 40-26 at halftime. Seton Hall (13-15, 2-13) was still in contention at 52-40 and 62-48 but would get no closer.
On the night, Seton Hall was 8-of-10 from the line while Louisville was 20-of-26, including a perfect 10-of-10 from Russ Smith, who added 19 points for the Cardinals. Hancock also finished in double-figures with 13 points.
“They turned up the heat a little bit and we didn’t handle that really well,” Willard said. “You have to give them a lot of credit. They’re at home and when they start pressing and creating turnovers, which they do very well, and we just didn’t handle it.”
Louisville native Aaron Cosby led four Pirates with 17 points. Eugene Teague added 16 points, Brian Oliver had 12 points and Fuquan Edwin had 11.
“We are positive because our guys are playing really hard,” Willard added. “We don’t have a whole lot of options and we only have seven guys healthy right now. When you’re in this league, playing with only seven guys, no power forward and three centers, you’re going to struggle. I’m really happy with the way our guys are fighting through it. We’re trying to find ways, but it’s tough.”
Pitino who is now 651-239 overall is 297-111 during his tenure at Louisville. If the Cards can keep winning, Pitino will get his 300th Louisviille victory on March 4 when the Cardinals host Cincinnati.