Rick Pitino promised lineup changes and delivered on that promise as the Cards broke out their smaller, quicker lineup in an effort to get more activity on the glass. Terrence Jennings and Mike Marra were out, as was Rakeem Buckles who missed the game due to a concussion. Insert Chris Smith, Kyle Kuric, and Gorgui Dieng. It’s only one game, but the results were positive.
The Cards outrebounded Gardner-Webb 44-23, including 11 boards from Gorgui Dieng, 10 of which came in the first half. Preston Knowles got the message too, and grabbed 9 rebounds of his own. Chris Smith added 5, and Peyton Siva chipped in 3 boards.
Like I said, its only one game, but I like the idea of going smaller. Much like an undersized defensive line has to rely on their speed and quickness rather than using power, I think Louisville needs to try to rebound using quickness and activity. They do not have a bunch of strong post players who can bang around in the paint, so why make them try?
With this new lineup, you get five guys on the floor who are at least willing to go get rebounds and attack the glass.
Offensively, I love the way Peyton Siva is playing of late. He is getting into the lane with such ease, but more important, he knows exactly where his teammates are on the floor and more often than not, finds the open shooter. Peyton had 7 assists on Saturday, but could have easily had more if guys would have connected on shots. By my count, there were four instances in which Peyton found a wide open, and I mean wide open, shooter, but the shot was missed.
I also continue to be impressed with what I’m seeing from Gorgui Dieng.
Yes, he still looks awkward at times, but you can literally see him improve every game. When I watch the Gorgui Monster, I don’t really look for his point or rebound total. I try to pay attention to things like how he switches defensively or set screens away from the ball offensively.
In other words, I try to see how much he’s learning about Rick Pitino’s system. Early in the year, like most freshmen under Pitino, he was thinking about where he was supposed to be rather than just playing the game. People around the program rave about Gorgui’s ability to learn and you can see it in his play. He appears so much more comfortable on the floor now and it really gets you excited about his potential.
Speaking of Rick Pitino, I think he deserves some credit. Not necessarily because of the 9-1 record, even though I don’t think most of us expected this team to be 9-1 after the first ten games. I think Rick deserves some praise because of the way he’s coaching this team.
Before the season started, we all heard about the new offense and how Rick was going to have to live with more turnovers and mistakes than he would have in the past. I think a lot of people didn’t really believe Rick would be able to for very long.
Well, we’re only ten games in with a lot of season left, but so far, Rick has lived up to his word. Sure, there have been times Rick has pulled a guy after a mistake, but it has not been near the frequency as years past. Also, I think it needs to be pointed out how positive Rick has been in coaching this team.
It’s hard to tell watching a game on television, but next time you attend a game, try to watch Rick after a good play. Whether it’s on the offensive of defensive end, when the Cards do something positive, Rick applauds or gives a small fist pump, something he did not do too much the past few years.
Not everything was positive against Gardner-Webb. The Cards still need Mike Marra and Terrence Jennings to get going. Marra has clearly let his shooting slump affect the rest of his game. He’s making silly passes, including an alley-oop attempt to a well defended Stephan Van Treese on Saturday that had absolutely no chance, and seems to be very tentative on the defensive end.
Terrence Jennings continues to perplex. We know TJ does not have polished post moves and his points will mostly come from pick and rolls and fastbreaks, but TJ has got to be more active on the glass. He is blocking shots well, averaging 2.7 per game, but if he doesn’t rebound, or at least attempt to, I’m not sure you can play him.
This team absolutely needs Mike Marra and Terrence Jennings. If they get going, I think UofL can be pretty good.
Now comes the first road game of the year for the Cards. They travel down the road to face the Hilltoppers in Bowling Green. Diddle Arena should be electric and it will be interesting to see how the Cards fare.