Hell in the Hall – Louisville Sports Blog

Dedicated to the joyful noise of the Card faithful

Cards’ Streak Hits 4, as Man-Child Behanan and Warrior Dieng Power 78-66 Win Over Rutgers

Posted by frankpos on February 5, 2012

It’s been over 40 years since Knicks center Willis Reed emerged from that tunnel, limping in on one good leg, to inspire and lead his team to its first NBA title over the Lakers.

But it was apropos that Coach Rick Pitino invoked that moment to lead off his post game press conference after the Ville’s dramatic win over Rutgers at The Bucket yesterday.

Because Louisville center Gorgui Dieng– the most indispensable player on this team now– went down with a  horrible ankle sprain, had his foot  practically mummified in tape, and then hobbled back into the game  just minutes later with the Cards’ lead dwindling, inspiring and stabilizing the team to a key W.

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Louisville center Gorgui Dieng was helped off the court with a bad ankle sprain, only to emerge Lazurus -like minutes later to help lead the Cards to a key victory.

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It was one of several memorable moments in a game that the Cards led throughout, but could never put totally ice against a dangerously capable  opponent.

I’ll invoke another name from the past to tell this story:  Louisville and NBA great Wes Unseld.  Card fans have compared freshman Chane Behanan’s massive build to Unseld’s from the beginning, but now his game is sparking vivid  memories of Unseld’s dominant play.

Continuing his strong play of late, Chane Behanan controlled the paint with 11 boards--and 6 awe-inspiring jams.

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Chane grabbed what seemed like every rebound (he had 11) , and powered in 6 gorilla dunks, while making all but one of his 12 shots, to help Dieng totally control the front court play against the Scarlett Knights.  With a resurgent Chris Smith adding a team high 13 bounds, the Cards pounded Rutgers on the boards 40-25.

This total dominance helped Louisville overcome a second straight sloppy game of high turnovers vs. assists, and a continuing and disturbing  tendency to let opponents hit the 3- ball (Rutgers made 6 of 12 in the second half to help them hang close.)

Other highlights for the Cards:  Shot machine Russ Smith, continues to shred defenders, and get his points (12 in this game.) But more importantly, he is obviously continuing his recent trend toward truly  trying for assists.  He only recorded 2 A’s vs. 4 TO’s–but 3 of those turnovers were attempted assists on passes that were just a bit too wide or hot to handle.  You can see and relish the progress he is making.

Another turning point for the team has been Russ Smith relishing the dish almost as much as the shot.

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And although I’ve already noted Chris Smith’s rebounding, he also contributed a game high 6 assists–and 0 TO’s.  After a horrible slump, Chris has continued to come on strong since the Providence debacle (and subsequent, perhaps season-turning team meeting.)

Chris Smith ignited the crowd with this lightning slice through the lane for a slam. Chris has continued his strong play since that all -important team meeting, and remarkably led the team in this game in both rebounds (13) and assists (6).

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Speaking of that Providence game…it now seems a long time ago, as the Cards have now won four in a row, and 5 of their last 6 since that ugly rout.  And the only loss was against a tough Marquette team in Milwaukee when we had to play without an injured Kyle Kuric.

The next three games though will tell whether the Cards are truly a top 10-15 ranked team again.  Over the next 7 days– with Gorgui Dieng no doubt playing injured– the Ville will face a resurgent UConn at The Bucket, travel to Morgantown to face a tough WVU squad, and then come home again to take on a top 5 Syracuse team.

Then they will have a week to heal, but this next week will be an interesting measuring stick of just how resilient the team is and how far they have come since that Providence game.

GO CARDS !

(BTW…ck out the full set of photos from Hell in the Hall photographer, Matt Wickham, at http://www.flickr.com/photos/kylures/sets/72157629177337903/detail/    and at the right sidebar .

Another quite memorable moment from this game was the sight of Rutgers head coach Mike Rice going ballistic, and being ejected from the arena-- a first for The Bucket, and the first in a longer time than anyone in the press room could remember.

Yes, the LadyBirds were there--but hey! so were the cheerleaders!

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