Morning After: U of L reaches 20 wins

University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino said his goal was seven in a row heading into the Big East Tournament. The Cardinals picked up the first one on Thursday night, using a huge second half by Russ Smith to run past St. John's 72-58 at the KFC Yum! Center. The Cardinals now play at South Florida on Sunday. Here are a few thoughts on the win over the Red Storm:

1. No days off for these Cardinals: The NCAA mandates that coaches must give players one day off during each week. Louisville coach Rick Pitino gave his bunch off last week on Sunday and this week on Monday, allowing them to have a two-day break after the five-overtime loss at Notre Dame. But that doesn't mean the team took a break. Junior center Gorgui Dieng said he and fellow captains Peyton Siva and Luke Hancock led workouts on the two off days. Dieng worked with the post players, Siva with the guards and Hancock with the forwards. Dieng said the message was there was plenty of work to be done and the team needed to put in the time even on off days. He added, "We cannot lose anymore. That's enough."

2. Cards play well when Siva plays well: Before getting caught up in Russ Smith's team-high 24 points, remember it was Peyton Siva who sparked the Cardinals at the end of the first half. And it was also Siva, who turned in a solid effort with 12 points, six assists, four rebounds, two steals and just two turnovers. It's pretty simple to see when Siva has a good game, the Cardinals are generally going to be successful. He's averaging 11 points a game in the 20 wins. In three of the five losses, Siva has a total of five points. He only scored three against Syracuse, had two against Notre Dame and was scoreless in the loss to Georgetown. Siva said it's not in his makeup as a player – or person – to "think I have to be the one to have the ball in my hands." But he does need to play well for the team to win!

3. Gorgui on the boards and a lot of minutes: Pitino said he needs to get junior center Gorgui Dieng a bit more rest, noting he played 37 minutes against St. John's. Dieng did look tired at the end of the game, missing the dunk and then missing two free throws in the final few minutes. He still had a stellar game of 10 points and 17 rebounds but only hit 4 of 11 from the field. Pitino said he believes the added minutes are taking a toll on Dieng's ability to block shots. It's not that he's not conditioned to play those minutes but he does need a couple of extra breathers. Stephan Van Treese played three minutes against St. John's. I would expect to see that doubled in the coming games.

4. Russ had a big second half: After having a horrible game against Notre Dame, it took Russ Smith 20 minutes to get going. But once he did it was the Russ Smith show for the Cardinals. He scored 21 of his 24 points in the second half, including 12 in a row during one stretch. He added six rebounds and four assists but even during the 12-point surge had Pitino yelling at him several times for wild and crazy shots. But this time, at least they went in. After the game, Smith said during his run that he "almost forgot" he was on the floor with his teammates. Chane Behanan said when Smith gets going "we just step back for a minute and then we have to tell him we're out there with him." It is what it is with Smith. Most of the time this year we have seen the good, but sometimes there will be some bad. He was 5 of 13 from the field against the Red Storm, including 5 of 8 in the second half.

5. A few more nuggets: The win was the 20th of the season, marking the 11th straight season the Cardinals have reached the 20-win plateau. The Cardinals are just one of nine Division I schools to accomplish that feat. . . . U of L is now 17-0 this season when leading at halftime. . . . The 17 rebounds by Gorgui Dieng are a career high and the eighth time this season he's had 10 or more. . . . Russ Smith hit 12 of 14 from the free-throw line, while the team finished 23 of 30. . . . Peyton Siva made all four free throws and is now 27 of his last 29 from the line. . . . Chane Behanan with a solid outing of 10 points and eight rebounds. . . . The Cardinals missed 10 layups in the first half. . . . U of L is now a half-game out of first place in the Big East Conference with an 8-4 league record.

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