1. Overcoming obstacles: Unlike many recent University of Louisville teams, this one faced several tough obstacles and it never phased them. Fir starters, the Cardinals woke up on game day at home. Normally, the team travels the day before the game, spends the night in a hotel, has a game-day walk-through in the opposing arena and then plays that night. But this time, that didn't happen. U of L had an 8 p.m. flight on Sunday that couldn't get off the ground at home because of fog and weather in the Hartford area. So, the Cardinals had a practice on Monday morning at home and then boarded the plane for a two-hour flight around 11 a.m. In the past, this would have freaked some teams out. But these guys went with the flow and it didn't bother them. Oh yeah, and what about the No. 1 ranking. They also played with that target on their backs for the first time and no big deal!
2. Chane Behanan is one tough kid: For the second straight game, Behanan played through the pain of his sprained ankle and bone spur injury. He just toughs it out for the Cardinals. In my opinion, he's the toughest kid on the team. I know he missed some dunks – which Rick Pitino said had to be because of pain because "Chane never misses dunks." But he played really well on both ends of the floor and several of those rebounds late were big-time.
3. Russ Smith breaks out of mini slump: After two poor performances, I had a feeling Russ Smith was going to come through and he did. Smith broke out of his slump with 23 points on 10 of 20 from the field and kept the Cardinals in the game in the first half with Peyton Siva on the bench in foul trouble. On a national stage, Smith cemented his name in the mix for National Player of the Year. The drive to the basket off a loose ball late in the first half – where he split two defenders – was as good as I've seen all season.
4. Siva and the fouls: There's no question the two first-half fouls that Peyton Siva committed were not smart ones. He only played four minutes of the half and the Cardinals were lucky to be only six down at the break. Have heard a lot of folks talk about Siva and the foul trouble. I just think that's Siva's nature. He's always going to hard and always going after the ball, sometimes he takes a chance that he shouldn't and gets a dumb foul. It's been his way for four years and I don't expect it to change anytime soon. He's doing a lot better with cutting them down but he's still making a few here and there and Monday just happened to be two quick ones.
5. A few leftovers: Freshman Montrezl Harrell only played four minutes because he was sick before the game. . . . A big game from Wayne Blackshear and Luke Hancock, coming up with nine and eight points respectively. Those two are going to be keys and with that kind of production the Cards will be hard to beat. . . . Much better 13 assists on 29 field goals. . . . And, of course, another monster effort by Gorgui Dieng. He has 10 or more rebounds in all three games he's started since coming back from his injury.