Some of the best games in recent weeks for the University of Louisville men's basketball team have likely come in practice.
"It's real intense," guard Kevin Ware said.
The Cardinals are the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament and have used their deep and talented bench to wear down opponents, especially in the first two games of the NCAA Tournament.
"There is not much drop off," Colorado State coach Larry Eustachy said after watching the U of L bench score 22 points in an 82-56 decision on Saturday.
Louisville has outscored its opponents bench in 29 of 36 games this season and the bench has come on strong during the current 12-game winning streak.
"We are getting after each other in practice and it's made everybody better," Ware said. "We go real hard in practice. Coach P never lets it get out of hand.
"We go hard but it's managed and it makes us better."
In two NCAA Tournament games, the U of L bench has contributed 22 of 60 total rebounds and 44 of 142 points scored in wins over North Carolina A&T and Colorado State. The bench has scored at least 20 points in 18 games this season.
"Our bench is what really makes us go," senior point guard Peyton Siva said. "I feel like any of those guys could start for any other team in the nation."
Freshman Montrezl Harrell has averaged 8.8 points and 3.2 rebounds in five postseason games, including 20 points in the Big East Tournament final win over Syracuse. He had 11 points in the win over Colorado State.
"He's really playing well," junior Stephan Van Treese said of Harrell. "He's playing with a lot of confidence and that makes us a lot better."
Van Treese has also been a major improvement since the middle of the season. He had his fourth game of the season with at least seven rebounds against North Carolina A&T and has had a putback dunk in both NCAA games.
"Every since we started playing Stephan Van Treese more, we have grown immensely as a basketball team," Rick Pitino said.
Kevin Ware and Luke Hancock are the two other regulars off the bench and both have been major contributors in recent weeks.
Ware had a career-high five assists along with two steals, two rebounds and two points against Colorado State and has become a scoring threat along with a defensive stopper for the Cardinals.
Kevin, like Stephan Van Treese and Montrezl Harrell, those three are pretty darn good guys coming off the bench," Pitino said. "Not to mention the fact that he's every bit as good on defense and rebounding as the other guys."
Hancock has averaged 8.6 points in the five post-season games and is still on a hot streak from three-point range.
"We're just all locked in right now," Hancock said.