It kept the momentum that had followed the victory over Pittsburgh the previous weekend, and erased some of the bad memories from the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday loss to Marquette that had left the team with a 2-4 mark in the conference.
"We had five great practices leading up to the Pittsburgh game, the first time in a while our guys were laughing, having a great time, totally focused," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "It's the first time we've been able to practice five-straight days the whole season and we got a lot out of it. We improved a lot. We didn't have to worry about shuffling a lot of guys around. We just work with the people that are there."
Also encouraging was that it won despite foul trouble. Chane Behanan picked up three quick fouls and played just 18 minutes, while Russ Smith fouled out in 16 minutes. But the Cardinals hit 14 free throws in a row at one point and hit the big shots down the stretch to enter this weekend with a lot more momentum and confidence than it had seven days ago.
NOTES, QUOTES--Freshman F Chane Behanan played perhaps his most aggressive and confident game of the season against Villanova. On the positive side, that resulted in 14 points and seven rebounds against the Wildcats. However, he was a little too aggressive on defense, fouling out in 18 minutes.
--Sophomore C Gorgui Dieng finished with his second double-double in a row, with 12 points and 13 rebounds against Villanova. He also blocked two shots and earned three assists, the latter tying a career high.
BY THE NUMBERS: 14-of-20 -- Louisville's shooting numbers in the second half of its victory over Pittsburgh. It's the first time the Cardinals have shot 70 percent in a half since Feb. 2009, and a big surprise for a team that has struggled to find the basket this season.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNELTHIS WEEK'S GAMES:
--at Seton Hall, Jan. 28
KEY MATCHUPS: It's tough to pick which of the two marquee matchups will be the most pivotal. Is it in the paint, where Gorgui Dieng and Herb Pope will do battle? Or on the perimeter, where Peyton Siva will have to stop Jordan Theodore. Whoever wins those two individual battles will likely win the game, though both teams also have underrated offensive weapons in prolific and frequent shooter Russ Smith for Louisville and Fuquon Edwin for Seton Hall.
ON THE SPOT: Peyton Siva always seems to find himself under the microscope from fans and coaches who think he should be better than he is. He's been struggling with injuries all year, but that hasn't affected his desire to work on his game, and the extra time focusing on his shot paid off. Against Villanova, he hit three key jumpers in the first half.
"He's been working two extra hours on his shot. He was trying to throw the ball really high up in the air and I said just shoot the ball normal," coach Rick Pitino said. "But I was really happy with the fact that he is trying to get his mid-range shot up. He's been shooting the ball great in practice, really working on his mid-range game and he got the fruits of the labor today."
FUTURES MARKET: Louisville freshman Zach Price played another two minutes against Pittsburgh, and it would have been more had it not been a rare foul-trouble-free outing from starting C Gorgui Dieng. Without the injured Stephen Van Treese and Rakeem Buckles, the little-used freshman is the only true big man available to back up Dieng in the paint.