Louisville turned up the tempo to open the second half and extended their lead with a 23-2 run while getting their post players into the game, which is something that hadn’t happen earlier in the game. The Cards also went man-to-man on defense and really disrupted what Rutgers tried to do. It showed when you could see Scarlet Knight players hanging their heads and disputing officials calls.
How bad did it get for Rutgers? Through the first eleven minutes of the second half, they scored 6 points. The way Louisville wears their opponents down, both physically and mentally, got to the team from New Jersey. The Cards are better conditioned and can maintain intensity in a way that the Knights could not.
While Dieng didn't get it done on the offensive end, scoring only 2 points, he was a beast on defense. He blocked six shots, changed others and intimidated the Rutgers big men all game long. It's the Pitino philosophy. Just because you don't put it in the bucket doesn't mean you don't stop playing. That kind of defense creates the offense the Louisville finally found.
Russ Smith found his way back in the game in the second half with his father, Big Russ, looking on from the stands. Smith finished with 14 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists. We’re sure got a chance to have a Waffle House visit after the game.
It was also a big game for Blackshear. In only 14 minutes of play the entire game, he led all scorers with 19 points, a Cardinal career high. And don’t dismiss Peyton Siva. He owned the floor from his point guard position and led the Cards to the victory.
For Louisville, it’s now on to South Bend to take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish this Saturday at 9. They return home to the KFC Yum! Center on Valentine’s Day for a 9 o’clock tipoff with St. John’s.
Photo: Louisville.com/Tim Girton