Just days before their matchup with bitter rival Kentucky, the Louisville Cardinals received some good news.
As first reported by Jeff Goodman of CBSSports.com, Louisville center Gorgui Dieng will play in Saturday’s game after missing the last seven games with a broken left wrist. With the Wildcats boasting the tandem of Nerlens Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein in the paint, the return of Dieng comes at just the right time for the No. 4 Cardinals.
In Louisville’s two losses to the Wildcats last season Dieng averaged 6.0 points, 8.5 rebounds and 5.0 blocked shots per game, shooting just 33.3% (5-of-15) from the field.
But despite the talent that Noel and Cauley-Stein possess, Dieng won’t be going up against a player the caliber of Anthony Davis this time around.
“He’s in great shape,” Pitino said in regards to Dieng on Wednesday. “His defensive timing is off, but he looks good offensively.”
In the five games that Dieng has played this season the junior from Senegal averaged 8.2 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game, and with him out of the lineup the Cardinals suffered just one defeat (76-71 to No. 1 Duke in the title game of the Battle 4 Atlantis).
Dieng’s return makes the Cardinals whole again in the paint, as he’ll join the likes of Chane Behanan, Montrezl Harrell and Stephan Van Treese in the Louisville rotation. How much will Dieng be able to play? And how much of an impact will he have against the Wildcats, who have won the last four meetings in the series?
On the season Louisville is limiting opponents to 0.8 points per possession, and a performance along those lines on Saturday would go a long way towards ending their four-game losing streak to Kentucky.
With Dieng given the go-ahead to return, the chances of that happening improve.