It had been a struggle for Louisville this season.
Early on, the Cardinals had problems scoring after injuries cost them several players. Then their starting point guard Peyton Siva fell into a slump for more than a month.
And just in time for the Big East tournament, they lost four of their final six regular-season games.
But throughout it all, Louisville had been consistent defensively and only allowed three opponents to score more than 80 points. So just before the Cardinals entered postseason play, coach Rick Pitino called a team meeting and stressed to his players what he thought could carry them.
"We're going to take the philosophy of playing defense," Siva recalled Pitino saying. "Our offense hasn't been clicking a lot. Let's everybody just worry about defense."
David Luma on Dieng's impact defensively
To understand what kind of impact Gorgui Dieng had on Louisville's 57-44 victory over Michigan State in Thursday night's West Region semifinals, consider this:
Michigan State made 14 field goals. Dieng blocked seven shots. End result: The top-seeded Spartans scored their second-fewest points of the season and are going home. The fourth-seeded Cardinals will be playing Florida on Saturday for the right to advance to the Final Four.
Cardinals coach Rick Pitino insists he knew the Cardinals' fate against the bigger, more physical Spartans hinged on Dieng, a raw but talented 6-foot-11, 235-pound sophomore who grew up in Senegal.
"We wanted to protect Gorgui with our life," Pitino said. "We felt that if we could keep Gorgui in the game, we could beat them. And everybody had to guard the middle, contain the basketball and keep Gorgui from getting in foul trouble. And he played a brilliant game."