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February 26, 2013As if Louisville's future Big East Conference and NCAA Tournament opponents didn't have enough to worry about already -- Peyton Siva's drives and dishes, Russdiculous' outrageous shots, Chane Behanan's interior strength, Luke Hancock's threat on the perimeter, UofL's depth -- Gorgui Dieng has given them more food for thought and fodder for scouting reports.
Dieng, UofL's continually improving center, unveiled a deadly new weapon in the Cardinals' 79-61 rout of Seton Hall last Saturday. En route to scoring a career-high 23 points, the 6-foot-11 junior stepped outside his comfort zone in the paint and befuddled the Hall's zone defense by hitting a half-dozen mid-range jump shots.
He hadn't made more than five field goals of any kind in a game all season, so his sudden newfound range had to come as something of a surprise to the Pirates and most of the 22,332 fans on hand in the KFC Yum! Center, if not to his teammates.
"It's something he's worked on a lot," Hancock said. "He works on it every day ... and he's got a great touch. That's his shot, and he kills it."
Most of Dieng's jumpers against Seton Hall came from near the free-throw line, but he also nailed a baseline jumper. In all, he hit 10 of 11 shots while adding eight rebounds, three blocks and two steals, with only one turnover in 33 minutes.
Dieng sank his first jumper just 21 seconds into the game, and then there was no stopping him.
"I was just wide open, and I can shoot it," he said. "They probably challenged, like, three shots. Other than that, I was just by myself. There isn't anything else I can say. I think I can make the shot. Everybody feels comfortable when you make the first two shots, so I was very comfortable shooting it. If I can make those shots it's going to help me and help my team too, so I am trying to get to where I can shoot 60-70 percent outside."
On the season Dieng is averaging 9.8 points, 10.2 rebounds, has blocked 54 shots and is shooting 51.1 percent from the field and 65 percent from the foul line. In Big East games only he is the rebounding leader at 11.2, and his 42 blocks trail leader Chris Obekpa of St. John's by five.
"His game keeps growing and growing and getting better and better," UofL coach Rick Pitino said. "You see his jump shot this year, his free throws, his passing have all improved."
Dieng's stellar performance against the Pirates came three months after he fractured his left wrist against Missouri in the Bahamas, which was bad timing as far as his developing offensive versatility.
"I started making (the jump shot) at the beginning of the season, broke my wrist, came back and was missing it," Dieng said. "Every time I miss it, I got frustrated. Coach told me, 'Don't worry about it, just keep playing. One shot cannot determine if we win or lose the game.'"
So expect to see more of the same from Dieng as the Cards (22-5, 10-4) head into a stretch of three games in six days, starting at DePaul (11-16, 2-12) Wednesday night, as they try to stay in the hunt for the Big East championship.
"I think Gorgui is really a difference-maker who doesn't get enough credit for being a game-changer both offensively and defensively," Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard said after Saturday's game. "He can not only change the game defensively, but when he's making his 15-foot jumper or being effective around the rim, he is terrific.
"I think what makes them dangerous is you never know who's going to get you. One night it's Russ Smith, the next night it's Peyton Siva. Then maybe it's Luke Hancock banging threes, or Dieng. And the other thing that makes them so good is the fact they can be so aggressive because at the end of the day you still have to go score on Gorgui (under the basket)."