"They take pride in being the tougher team on the backboard with everybody they play," Pitino said on his post-game radio show. "You're going to know if you're ready to fight for a championship in the Big East by the backboard. We certainly were. There are five vital factors to our success and rebounding is one of those five factors."
Louisville continued to shoot the ball well against Cincinnati. The Cardinals shot better than 50 percent in recent wins over DePaul and Providence. Saturday afternoon, the Cardinals made 48 percent from the field, including 8 of 17 from three-point range.
"Those vital factors were all there today," said Pitino. "I think this was collectively our best game this season in terms of every single person contributing. Every phase of the game we played very well."
Terrence Williams led the way for the Cards with 20 points, 8 rebounds, five assists and three steals. Williams, who played all 40 minutes against UC, proved again that's he's finally over the sprained right shooting wrist that slowed him in three early February contests. T-Will made 8 of 14 shots, including 3 of 5 three-pointers.
"I laugh at some of these mock drafts that have T-Will one of the last picks in the first round, early second," Pitino said. "I'd put him in the lottery if I'm a pro scout with that body, that passing ability, that size, improving his shot. He is a heck of a basketball player."
Louisville handled Cincinnati's full-court pressure well all game. The Cardinals committed just 11 turnovers in the game – six by forward Earl Clark. More importantly, Louisville's pressure defense wore out Cincinnati's leading scorer Deonta Vaughn, who didn't score in second half after draining three three-pointers for nine points in the first half. Pitino gave credit to Andre McGee for taking Vaughn's "legs out."
"We were very good in the press ourselves – they were 1 for 8 against our 22 (press)," Pitino said. "We did a great job of wearing them down and making Vaughn work. We wanted him to lose his legs in the second half."
With four games remaining, Louisville is tied atop the Big East standings with UConn, Pittsburgh and Marquette. The Cardinals travel to Georgetown for a Monday night showdown, then return home to play Marquette and Seton Hall before ending the regular-season with a rematch at West Virginia.
"We want to stay in the thick of this," Pitino said. "This was by far our toughest game. Cincinnati needed this game to get into the tournament, especially with Providence losing. They beat us they're in. We're going against that type of mentality in our remaining games."
Louisville will travel to Washington D.C. tomorrow for Monday night's game against the Hoyas. Louisville and Georgetown split two games last season with both teams winning at home.
"We're fighting Marquette for a piece of the championship. We're fighting Georgetown for an NCAA bid. We're fighting West Virginia on (ESPN) Game Day," Pitino said. "So we've got to fight and we did fight (today). We were a tough basketball team physically and mentally and we executed beautifully on offense."