My guess is that I'm like a majority of you in being at least a little unsure as far as what the proper reaction to Saturday's game should be.
On one hand, Louisville pulled out a victory in a game that just a few weeks ago looked borderline un-winnable, and which was still a game where the Cards entered as underdogs. On the other, U of L did several of the same things that made it look like an NIT team before this current winning streak.
It's easy to say, "shelve the negative talk, we won the game and that's all that matters" until you remember that was the battle cry for most of December, and then all those same obvious problems we chose to play ignorant toward ended up being a major issue once the Cards took a step up in competition.
I know it's the Big East and you shouldn't have any complaints about a road win - especially one over a top 30 RPI opponent - but having as many turnovers (15) as shot attempts (yeah, also 15...not sure why I felt the need to parenthesize this, but what's done is done) in the second half of a late January game should not happen.
Essentially, this is a situation where every point, positive or negative, can and should be complemented with a "but." And yes, I'm aware that a sentence where I demand "but complements" begs for a joke, but dammit we don't have time for that right now.
Yes, there's no reason for Louisville to let a 17-point second half lead dwindle to four in the game's final minutes, but the Cards did end up holding on to beat a team that defeated both West Virginia and Connecticut by double digits in that same building. And yes, Peyton Siva's play in the second half was extremely disconcerting, but all of the sudden Gorgui Dieng and Chane Behanan are emerging as one of the most formidable frontcourts in the Big East.
Bottom line: there are multiple areas where this team has to improve if it wants to be a threat to go deep in the NCAA Tournament. But considering everything that has happened since October, no one should be flipping out about Louisville heading into February with a 17-5 record.
Ordinarily I can see enough truth in Rick Pitino's hyperbole to give him the benefit of the doubt or simply deem it unworthy of mention, but this one I'm just going to flatly disagree with: Gorgui Dieng played well. Actually, he played better than well, he was tremendous.
Dieng officially finished with five blocked shots, but I think he unofficially altered about 45 others. He played 38 minutes, stayed out of foul trouble, and still managed to hold Herb Pope - probably a lock for first team All Big East at this point in the season - to just 4-of-13 from the field. Oh, and he grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds, scored 11 points and missed just three total shots - two field goals and one free-throw.
Gorgs has become almost a guaranteed nightly double-double, and he's without question the biggest reason this team has won three straight and four of its last five.
Also, I'm juts realizing now that we haven't made mention of this story on the site yet...
After DePaul Day I, The Voice Tribune's Angie Fenton interviewed a number of the players in the locker room and ended up asking Gorgui what he missed most about Senegal. Gorgs' response: "The food...And chasing Lions."
Lion-Chasing Gorgui: top ten lock of the century.
Pitino made up for his tepid feelings over Dieng's performance by heaping high praise in the direction of Chane Behanan. I think we can all get on board with that, especially if we're talking about the first half.
In the first ten minutes on Saturday, Behanan looked like the monster on the glass that we've all been hoping he becomes. During that period, it seemed like there wasn't a live ball around either rim that didn't come down in his beastly paws. He also continued to finish around in the paint and left the Samardo power dribble in the locker room.
In the second half, however, he did utilize the dribble twice (got blocked once, missed the other time) and fell victim to the turnover problems that had plagued his game in preceding weeks (he finished with six giveaways).
Aside from the unnecessary one dribble habit, one thing Chane needs to cut out is catching passes and grabbing rebounds with one hand first instead of two. I feel like it happens at least twice a game where he initially gets one hand on the ball and then loses it as he brings it in toward the other.
Also, someone needs to bust out the Denny Crum "you're open for a reason, Damian" story on him. If he airballs another wide-open three early or midway though a possession, I will call him "Chaneian Dantzler." I'm not saying I want to do it, I'm just saying that's what's going to happen.
All that said, 12 rebounds, eight points, 32 mintues played; a tip of the cap in your direction, young man.
I'm just going to go ahead and say what everyone who has seen a Seton Hall game this season has thought at least once: Herb Pope likes to party. And you know what? I don't see that changing any time soon.
It almost seemed like a quiet night from Russ, which is sort of hilarious considering he led the team in scoring with 14 points, took three more shots than any other Cardinal, and played just 21 minutes.
He regressed a little bit with some of his decision-making and didn't record a single assist, but he again served as the only offensive option during U of L's coldest stretch in the second half. His ability to both get to the line and hit the occasional insane shot proved to be invaluable on yet another night.
Perfect shooting position.
Pitino looks happy with the decision.
Ok, let's talk about Siva.
Our biggest asset last February and early March when we were playing out of our minds was that Peyton Siva basically made us un-pressable. If you wanted to get back into a game against us by applying backcourt pressure, we were going to match the basket you just made with an easy one of our own about five seconds later. See the Friday night game against UConn in February for a prime example.
To see Peyton struggle so mightily against a press from a team that doesn't have the size or athleticism to be a great pressing team was troubling. To see him seem to run away from the ball after turning it over a couple of times was probably even more disconcerting.
Siva has been a captain in name since the summer, but at some point he has to develop a captain's mentality. Things like missing a couple of jump shots or throwing the ball away against a press cannot rattle him to the point where everything else just sort of falls apart and his presence on the floor actually ends up hurting the team.
Look at Preston Knowles last year and how he reacted after missing one of the 8,000 "bad" shots he took, or after he threw a ball away on a drive. His game never changed. He knew he was the captain, that the team fed off of him and that being almost overly confident and aggressive gave Louisville its best chance to win.
For an even larger example, look at how the regular season ended. Preston committed an almost unimaginable mistake when he fouled Truck Bryant at the end of the West Virginia game, but you never would have known it when watching him carry the Cards to the Big East championship game less than a week later.
Why Peyton Siva appears to be doubting himself is beyond me. We've seen him shred presses and man-to-man defenses a hundred times before. We've seen him knock down threes and 15-foot jumpers consistently before. We know he can do it, he should know he can do it, and he simply cannot let doubt creep into his mind after he makes one or two mistakes or misses one or two open shots.
Siva is Louisville's point guard, its captain and its most talented player. He can't be running away from the ball when the game's on the line, even if he has just turned it over a couple of times.
People can call for his benching, but doing so is essentially settling for mediocrity. I've said it a thousand times before and I'm sure I'll say it at least a thousand times again: this team will only go as far as Peyton Siva can take it. We ride with him, we die with him.
I'm hoping my point got through despite the Fast and Furious final line. Vin Diesel's related to me in my imagination, so sometimes that stuff just slips out and there's nothing I can do.
We're about to be pressed a lot more.
I mean, are we going to have to make an official decision on a "Chris's Corner" renaming soon? I know it seems like blasphemy, but Kyle's kold and Chris cannot miss from that corner right now.
Chris Smith was born with 11 points. I'm serious, next time you're wondering how many points Chris has scored, the answer is going to be 11. Whether it's first half, second half or after the game, Chris Smith has 11 points.
Vin Diesel wishes he was that solid.
Again, I'm sorry. It's a Diesel/Rutherford thing, you couldn't possibly understand. Genes and all that.
There's zero doubt in my mind that no one at Seton Hall likes any of the speedo guys except the other speedo guys.
I guarantee those guys saw the attention Peter Dill got earlier this year and then thought up this brilliant plan as their cheat code to stardom. Of course it didn't work and this is why no one at Seton Hall likes you, because your hilarious plans for individual success are never either funny or successful.
One guy in a speedo emerging from an otherwise clothed section of Duke fans during an opposing player's free-throw? Cool and successful, because the UNC player missed both free-throws. A bunch of dudes wearing speedos and standing in the front row of a student section by themselves for an entire game? Incredibly creepy and I'm pretty sure Gorgui Dieng just threw another one of your player's shots into the Passaic.
Pitino yelling at Swop heading into halftime made me really sad.
He frustrates me more than a woman during a film with captions ("so it's going to be like this the whole time?"), but I don't think there's anyone whose success brings more of a smile to my face.
Swop's going to have to play decent minutes with Rock out for the season, and I really hope he's a key contributor to any success we have from this point forward.
The out-of-bounds plays.
I'm just going to leave it that, but I guarantee all of you have a solid handle on what it would have looked like if I'd gone on.
It's a definitely a positive that we've been able to win two games without Kyle shooting particularly well, but yeah, we've got to get Kyle going.
We defended the absolute hell out of those guys. That's all I have to say about that.
And thank God we did, because 11 assists, 23 turnovers and four made 3-pointers are not numbers I'd enjoy seeing again.
Potentially the highlight of the night:
When all's said and done, we're going to have to end up building a statue for this guy. Outside of the Yum Center, behind home plate at Slugger Field, in the living room at Card Chronicle Headquarters, wherever.
My preference is obviously for a Beanie Baby Gorgs mold, but we're getting ahead of ourselves now.
Multiple scouting services reported that elite 2013 point guard Tyler Ennis was in the house to check out the Cards on Saturday. He's also planning to visit U of L in February.
Ennis had to have been impressed by Northeast Hoodie Mike Marra. I couldn't tell if Mike busted out the dog tags again, but if he did just go ahead and consider the kid locked up.
Notre Dame is now the only Big East team Louisville hasn't defeated on the road since joining the conference.
We've won three straight. I'm choosing to let that be the permeating ethos as we sit back and watch everyone else play this work week.
Don't even think about clouding my ethos with your negativity...or funky smelling left-overs...which I may or may not have eaten part of when I saw that you'd already gone out and gotten Arby's.