DePaul Blue Demons (11-16, 2-12) vs. Louisville Cardinals (22-5, 10-4) – Wednesday, February 27th, 8:00 p.m. Central – Allstate Arena, Rosemont, Illinois
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As solid as Gorgui Dieng has been in the paint, Louisville could become that much more formidable if he turns into a bigger force offensively.
Dieng has keyed the defense strengthening recently, and now he looks to provide more versatility to what already is the Big East's top scoring offense as the 10th-ranked Cardinals travel to play struggling DePaul on Wednesday night.
Louisville (22-5, 10-4) has won three straight and six of seven - the only loss came in five overtimes to Notre Dame - and tops the conference with 74.2 points per game.
Dieng hadn't been too major a factor in that potent offense, scoring more than 12 in just three games all season heading into Saturday's matchup with Seton Hall. He clearly has played a big role in the Cardinals' success, though, ranking second in the Big East with 10.2 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game.
However, the 6-foot-11 junior broke through for a career-best 23 points on 10-of-11 shooting in a 79-61 win over the Pirates. Dieng, whose previous season high was 17, showcased a mid-range shot that previously posed little threat.
"I was very frustrated because I worked so hard in the summer to get that shot," said Dieng, who missed most of December with a wrist injury. "I started making it at the beginning of the season, then I broke my wrist. I came back and I was missing it, kept missing it.
"Coach (Rick Pitino) told me, 'I know you can make it, don't worry about it. If you miss it, you miss it. If you make it, keep playing. One shot in the game isn't going to change the game.’”
Dieng made Pitino look like a genius Saturday, and he also made things easier for teammates such as Russ Smith. Already a handful for opponents as the league's second-leading scorer with 18.4 points per game, Smith could become an even bigger headache for teams if they have to worry about Dieng's jumper, too.
"It opens up the floor in a way that you really can't describe," said Smith, who had 19 points Saturday. "They have to come out. I can slash and get some easy layups off Gorgui's man."
Dieng is already the anchor of a stingy Louisville defense which has held its last eight opponents to an average of 54.1 points in regulation. The Cardinals continue to be a nightmare for ball-handlers, forcing 18.8 turnovers per game to rank second in the country and averaging 10.7 steals to rank third.
Though this matchup appears to heavily favor Louisville - DePaul (11-16, 2-12) has lost 11 of 12 and has the Big East's second-worst record - the Cardinals could get caught looking ahead to Saturday's showdown with No. 12 Syracuse.
Louisville may have taken the most recent matchup too lightly, entering the game ranked 19th last February but falling behind by 10 at halftime before pulling out a 90-82 overtime win at DePaul.
The Blue Demons grabbed a three-point halftime lead against Connecticut on Saturday but would lose 81-69 after letting the Huskies shoot 70.8 percent from the field in the second half.
DePaul's last six opponents are shooting 55.9 percent, including 48.3 from 3-point ran
The Blue Demons have lost the last nine meetings with Louisville dating to a 60-58 road victory Feb. 25, 2004.
In last season's two matchups, Smith averaged 20.5 points, 5.0 assists and 5.0 steals while Dieng chipped in 10.5 points, 11.0 rebounds and 4.5 blocks per game.
DePaul leading scorer Brandon Young (16.5 ppg) scored 27 in the overtime loss.
The Last Time
On February 18th, 2012 in Rosemont, Illinois, the Blue Demons succumbed to 19th ranked Louisville in overtime after battling hard for the first 40 minutes.
DePaul’s Charles McKinney cut to the back door and drove to the basket to tie the game up 79-79 for the Blue Demons at the end of regulation.
But, untimely turnovers proved costly for DePaul in the overtime period. In total, Louisville scored 30 points off of Blue Demon turnovers.
DePaul sophomore point guard Brandon Young came away with a season-high 27 points, five assists, and four steals.
One area of the game where DePaul dominated was in the paint. The Demons outscored the Cardinals in the paint by a 48-29 margin.
Sophomore transfer Donnavan Kirk finished with 11 points including a three point shot.
Cleveland Melvin recorded his fourth double-double of the season with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Kyle Kuric led the way for the Cardinals with 25 points. Chris Smith chipped in with 20 and Russell Smith (no relation) added 16 points and stole the ball six times.
# NAME HT WT POS CL HOMETOWN (PREVIOUS SCHOOL)
2 Russ Smith 6-0 165 G JR Brooklyn, N.Y. (Archbishop Molloy/South Kent)
3 Peyton Siva 6-0 185 G SR Seattle, Wash. (Franklin)
5 Kevin Ware 6-2 175 G SO Bronx, N.Y. (Rockdale County (Ga.))
10 Gorgui Dieng 6-11 245 C JR Kebemer, Senegal (Covenant/Huntington Prep)
11 Luke Hancock 6-6 200 F JR Roanoke, Va. (George Mason)
12 Mangok Mathiang 6-10 200 C FR Melbourne, Australia (IMG Academy (Fla.))
14 Logan Baumann 6-0 165 G FR Hartford, Ky. (Ohio County)
15 Tim Henderson 6-2 195 G JR Louisville, Ky. (Christian Academy)
20 Wayne Blackshear 6-5 230 G/F SO Chicago, Ill. (Morgan Park)
21 Chane Behanan 6-6 250 F SO Cincinnati, Ohio (Bowling Green)
22 Jordan Bond 6-0 165 G FR Louisville, Ky. (duPont Manual)
24 Montrezl Harrell 6-8 235 F FR Tarboro, N.C. (Hargrave Military Academy)
25 Zach Price 6-10 250 C SO Cleveland, Ohio (Jeffersontown)
32 Michael Baffour 6-2 170 G JR Lexington, Ky. (Bryan Station)
33 Mike Marra 6-5 215 G SR Smithfield, R.I. (Northfield Mt. Hermon School)
44 Stephan Van Treese 6-9 245 F SR Indianapolis, Ind. (Lawrence North)