Louisville Basketball: The Good, the Ugly and the Amazing in Win over USF
The Louisville Cardinals improved their record to 15-1 and remain undefeated in Big East conference play after an impressive win over the South Florida Bulls Saturday at the KFC Yum! Center, 64-38.
Head coach Rick Pitino was very pleased with his team's play, especially on the defensive end.
Pitino said in his press conference after the game:
It is a type of defense that we wanted played. They came out the entire evening and played unbelievable defense, the type of defense we have been waiting for and wanted to see. We are proud of our guys and they did a tremendous job tonight."
Although it is hard to find too much wrong in a win like this, Louisville is still a young team and has some work to do before March.
So let's look at the good, the bad and the amazing in Louisville's win.
Peyton Siva is now the 64th Louisville basketball player in school history to score 1,000 points in his career. He needed 13 points before the game to reach the milestone, and Siva scored 17 in the game.
The 6'0" point guard will forever be in the Louisville record books with some of the best players to ever play the game—names like Pervis Ellison, Milt Wagner, Darrell Griffith and Wes Unseld.
Pitino said of Siva's accomplishment after the game:
Every now and then in life you come across a Billy Donovan, you come across a Peyton Siva. They are so few and far between, where they don’t have any of what we all have, the human frailties in life. There are no perfect human beings, but he’s about as good as I’ve coached. Those two guys are just as wonderful of human beings as anyone I’ve ever encountered in my coaching career.
Center Gorgui Dieng also had a good game with 12 points and 16 rebounds in his fourth double-double of the season.
Dieng, who is coming off a broken wrist, is playing a lot more physical in the post. South Florida even tried to contain the 6'11" junior by matching him up against Jordan Omogbehin.
But even at 7'3" and 334 lbs., Omogbehin couldn't keep Dieng off the boards.
Another stat that was impressive was Louisville's free-throw percentage. Every coach's fear is to have a bad free-throw shooting team, but the Cards have improved dramatically in the past month. They were 15-17 from the stripe against the Bulls.
This could be a major factor in many of the Cardinals upcoming Big East games. If the Cardinals can continue to shoot a high percentage from the free-throw line, they should come out on top more times than not.
It is a difficult task to think of a lot of negative issues in a game where a team wins by 26, but nonetheless I will try.
Russ Smith, also known as Russdiculous among Cardinal fans, did not seem like himself against the Bulls. The speedy guard seemed to be a touch slow and forced several bad shots. He shot just 2-13 from the floor and scored eight points. He came into the game averaging 19.4 points per game.
Before the game, Smith posted a picture via twitpic of his left ankle in a boot. Pitino did not mention anything in his press conference about Smith's ankle and Smith was unavailable in the locker room to interview after the game.
Another issue was Louisville's three-point shooting. The Cardinals went 3-18 from behind the arc, with Siva making all three of the shots from outside. Most of the missed shots were good shots, they just didn't go in.
Louisville isn't known for being a great three-point shooting team, so I don't expect this to be a huge issue. Also, when you play terrific defense, poor shooting doesn't really matter.
Louisville's defense is a spectacular thing to watch. If defense wins championships, then Louisville is on the right track.
The Cardinals forced the Bulls to shoot 26.7 percent and allowed only one player, guard Victor Rudd, to score in double figures. Louisville also out-rebounded South Florida 49-24, grabbing 19 offensive rebounds.
South Florida was pressured the entire game and was forced to turn the ball over 17 times, giving up 12 steals.
One player for Louisville that amazed the crowd was Chane Behanan. It's not that Behanan doesn't normally play well, but he wasn't supposed to play due to a high ankle sprain he sustained a week ago in practice. He didn't play like he had a bad ankle, nor did he show any pain.
Behanan had seven points and 12 rebounds off the bench, including five offensive rebounds.
Pitino said of Behanan playing:
He wasn't supposed to play. The trainer was going to hold him out, but he told one of our coaches that he was ready to play. He said it is a little painful, but that he could play. The players make the decision on that type of thing and Chane really helped us this evening.
Louisville has a quick turnaround and must go on the road Monday to play the Connecticut Huskies. The Huskies come into the game after upsetting the Notre Dame Fighting Irish Saturday in South Bend, 65-58.
Pitino said of UConn in his press conference:
They are a great ball club. Obviously, they snapped the long winning streak of Notre Dame at home. They’ve got arguably one of the best backcourts in the nation. Napier, believe it or not, is the leading rebounder on Connecticut’s team.
When: Monday, January 14 at 7 p.m. ET.
Where: The XL Center in Hartford, Conn.
Listen: WHAS Radio (840 AM) in Louisville, Ky.
Jon Hancock is a contributor for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.
You can follow Jon on Twitter @JonKYSportsCo.