Diagnosed with non-infectious mononucleosis late last week, the 6-3 Dean showed the 19,783 fans who watched 12th ranked Louisville improve to 23-4 on the season with an 84-66 over visiting Saint Louis Sunday evening that he still hasn't lost his deadly shooting touch.
Tired and fatigued even before the game started, Dean struggled during the first half of action and scored just three points before the break. Replaced for the second straight game in the starting lineup by 6-3 sophomore Brandon Jenkins, Dean, however, heated up the Hall in the final 20 minutes of action, burying four three-pointers to finish the game with 15 points to help lead the Cardinals to a second half rout of the Bilikens.
"I feel terrible for him because he's completely exhausted," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said following the game. "You know when you're hot like that (from the field)and your asking for breaks (to come out of the game), you know it's serious."
It's a real tough thing and I'm glad we know what it is now because it was beyond frustrating," added Pitino. "He's just had a lot of bad luck, but he's continuing to play through all of this and that's a credit to his toughness. He's a tough son-of-a-gun."
And though Pitino talked as though Dean is snake bitten - this after surgery to replace a sports-related hernia during the off-season - Dean prefers to take a more positive outlook toward his current situation.
Despite illness, Dean still smiling
Following Sunday night's game, which improved the Cardinals league record to 11-2 and helped keep them 1/2 game ahead of red-hot Charlotte in the race for the regular-season C-USA title, Dean admitted the illness, combined with the physical exertion of playing, takes a toll on his body.
"Everything is sore," explained Dean. "It makes you just want to sleep - you don't even want to open your eyes. I was exhausted in warmups, but getting a lot of fluids in me helped."
Asked to account for his hot-shooting second half performance, Dean offered a simple explanation.
"When a shooter shoots and they start going down (you) feel like you can do anything," he said. "In the second half I tried to exert myself more mentally than physically."
One side benefit created by Dean's illness, which has limited him to just 23 minutes of action in each of the Cardinals last two wins against Marquette and Saint Louis, has been increased playing time for the much-improved Jenkins.
Jenkins finished with 9 points on 4-7 shooting from the field and handed out two assists against Saint Louis, while commiting just two turnovers in 25 minutes.
"I think Brandon is the beneficiary of all of this (injury to Taquan Dean)," said Pitino. "I think Brandon has come on and I think that Ellis has come on. We've got to get Tello (Palacios) to come and we've got to get him playing bigger on the glass."
And it's the Cardinals depth and balance, according to Saint Louis coach Brad Soderberg, that makes Louisville such a difficult team to play against.
"It is hard to hold Louisville back," said Soderberg, who was ejected after receiving his second technical foul during the first half of last night's action. "They have so many weapons. You can't over help on Garcia because then Dean will get a shot or even O'Bannon. Their big kids go to the glass, so you can't slack off of them real hard. And provided Taquan (Dean) doesn't get sick they are going to be tough to beat as the tournament comes along."
Apparently, Cardinals fans won't have to worry about Dean the rest of the season. In the locker room following the game, Dean issued this message to Cardinal fans.
"I just want to tell the fans it's (mono) not going to be a problem and affect us," he said. "It's still going to be the same old Taquan."
If last night's performance is any indication, you have to take Dean at his word.