It was a close first half, and then a highlight-reel second half on Monday night at the KFC Yum! Center. After leading 29-24 at halftime, the Louisville Cardinals (19-5, 7-4) blew the game wide open and routed the UConn Huskies (15-8, 5-6) 80-59. It was the 5th straight win for the Cards, who now stand alone in 5th place in the Big East Standings.
The second half was full of dunks, three pointers, breakaway layups, and even a banked in 3 point shot. The game got away from UConn around the midway point of the second half, and they seemed to just drop their heads and let it happen. With 13:07 remaining in the game, UofL only lead 40-30. With 7:14 to play, it had grown to 60-34 for the Cards. Louisville led by as many as 30 points with around 4 minutes to go, and then emptied the bench and still held on to win by a 21 point margin.
The big question since Saturday was if Gorgui Dieng would play. Well he did, and he played extremely well. In 31 minutes, Dieng scored 15 points, grabbed 6 rebounds, had 6 steals, and held Andre Drummond to 0 points on 0-6 shooting. The way he hustled, you would have never known his status was questionable today. You could tell the crowd really appreciated his effort out there.
One big difference that seemed to show itself between these two teams was team chemistry. And a big stat to also show that is assists. UofL had 22 assists and UConn only had 7. Peyton Siva led all players with 9 assists to go along with his 7 points. He continues to play well after struggling for the first couple months of the season. Anyone he passed it to seemed to knock down shots. Chris Smith led the Cards with 16 points on 5-7 shooting and 4-6 from three-point land. He also had 6 rebounds. Kyle Kuric only shot 3-12, but still chipped in 10 points and a great 9 rebounds (and also a huge dunk; see first picture). Chane Behanan continued to hit the boards hard, pulling down 12 rebounds while scoring 7 points.
The bench even got some good moments in this game. Jared Swopshire scored 9 points in 14 minutes, capped off by a thunderous dunk in transition. Angel Nunez forced up a deep 3 pointer at the end of the shot clock, and banked it in! Then he pulled up for another deep 3 and nailed it for 6 points in 5 minutes. Elisha Justice even came in and hit a couple jumpers to score 4 points in 5 minutes.
As good as the Cardinals played, the Huskies played just as poorly. Jeremy Lamb came into the game averaging a team best 17.6 points per game. He was held scoreless in the first half, and ended up with only 7 points on 3-9 shooting. Shabazz Napier, who had averaged 13.3 points per game, was held to 9 points on 3-11 shooting. As we said before, freshman Andre Drummond, who was averaging 10.2 points per game, was held scoreless on 0-6 shooting. Against Rutgers, when Chris Smith’s shot wasn’t falling, he still played hard and rebounded and got assists. In this game, UConn’s stars seemed to fade out of the game when their shots weren’t falling, and Louisville took advantage in a big way. It truly looked like two teams going in the opposite direction at this point.
Louisville returns to action on Saturday when they travel to Morgantown to face West Virginia (16-8, 6-5), and then a quick turnaround as they will host Syracuse (23-1, 10-1) next Monday. Going into a tough stretch of the schedule, you have to love the way the Cards are playing right now.