Dartez Focused on Defense"> Dartez Focused on Defense">

Diakite's Return Lifts Cards

6'9 Nouha Diakite returned to action against Holy Cross and provided an immediate lift to the Cards with his defense and rebounding. Diakite talks about his first performance and what it was like joining the action for the first time this season. <li><a href="http://louisville.theinsiders.com/2/210855.html"><B>Dartez Focused on Defense</b></a>

Nouha Diakite hadn't played in regular season game since last season when Barton County was knocked out of the NJCAA Regional Tournament until Sunday's contest against Ralph Willard's Crusaders.

But he's glad to be back on the court after sitting out U of L's first four games to open this season.

"It felt big time," Diakite said. "After a month of not playing, I really liked the crowd, the ambiance...everything. I didn't know. I was just waiting for my time to get ready to play. I don't really know what happened."

Diakite may not know or understand the reasons why he was forced to sit but U of L fans know what he brought to the game against Holy Cross and had to like what the 6'9 native of Athis-Mons, France's game is all about.

"I felt like I had to go out and do whatever I could do," Diakite, who blocked four shots, said. "I think I helped the team tonight."

Indeed he did provide a lift to the team. His four blocked shots inspired the crowd and challenged teammate Kendall Dartez to join the block party. Dartez blocked 10 shots in the game. But it wasn't just the four blocks, he challenged even more shots and helped out on the boards, too in Otis George's absence. And his passing from the high post led to some easy baskets for teammates.

"We got another big man now that can block shots and rebound the ball," Francisco Garcia said. "Which is good."

Diakite admitted some nervousness playing before the Freedom Hall crowd for the first time but said he quickly got in the flow after entering the game against the Crusders.

"It felt really good," Diakite said. "I was really nervous when I first came in. It took about 15 seconds to go away...about the first time I ran down the court."

Diakite's addition is important for Louisville as the schedule intensifies this week with games against Seton Hall and #1 ranked Florida. His presences gives Pitino three active bodies to rotate in the post and should prevent scenarios like what happened against Iowa, with both of Louisville's big men fouling out.

For now, though, Diakite and U of L fans are just happy the athletic center has returned to lineup. And that's a good first step toward bigger things in the future.

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