1. Defense, defense, defense: You don't have to be a member of the coaching staff to see the defense was sharp on Saturday. Unlike early in the season, the Cardinals look more confident on defense, they're communicating and playing with a lot of confidence. One of the big things I liked about the defense against the Bulls was how physical the Cardinals were inside the paint. Montrezl Harrell has really improved and having Gorgui Dieng back makes it that much better. U of L has now held seven opponents to 20 points or fewer this season in the first half with four of those held to under 16 points.
2. Gorgui is back: Junior center Gorgui Dieng is still wearing the soft protective cast on his left wrist but he's back. Dieng now has three straight double-doubles in games that he has started since his return. Dieng finished with 12 points and a career-high 16 points and registered his 15th career double-double. Dieng only had one block but he was so active and really is starting to play like we expected him to play during this season before the injury.
3. Russ Smith struggles with his shot: Junior guard Russ Smith has been sensational this season for the Cardinals but this was the second consecutive games where he didn't shoot the ball well. Smith was 2 of 13 from the field, including 0-for-4 three-pointers, and finished with eight points, three rebounds and one assist. Smith, who was 2 of 11 from the field against Seton Hall, took some bad shots against South Florida. Two of his four three-pointers were rushed and one was with a defender in his face. He's going to be fine, just in a slump. Smith didn't stay after to chat with the media on Saturday, which means he's ticked at himself. I would imagine he has a big, big game on Monday night!
4. Harrell with another monster dunk: For the second game in a row and I believe fourth of the season, freshman Montrezl Harrell had an eye-catching monster dunk. Against South Florida, he was trailing and took off from two steps inside the free-throw line and slammed it. Harrell just smiled when I asked him about his monster dunks. He said "I'm not trying to just get them." And he's not but he's been in the right place at the right time several time. The kid can dunk!
5. A few leftover nuggets: Peyton Siva only had one assist and the team had a season-low six assists for the game against the Bulls. . . . Chane Behanan didn't practice much on Friday but played 18 minutes and had seven points and 12 rebounds with a bad foot. . . . Stephan Van Treese continues to give the Cardinals solid minutes. He played 13 minutes and had four points and three rebounds. . .. The Cardinals outrebounded South Florida 49-24, the largest margin of the season. . . . U of L had 19 offensive rebounds and South Florida had just 18 defensive.