NEW ORLEANS — Louisville sophomore center Gorgui Dieng knows his matchup with Kentucky center Anthony Davis could be critical to who wins Saturday’s Final Four matchup.
Yet he insists even if Davis has a good game,¿Louisville could still win.
“It isn’t about me. It’s about the team first,” said Dieng. “This game is not going to be easy. This game is very important at every position. It’s not about me and Anthony Davis. It’s about everybody. He is a great basketball player. He’s long and athletic. We didn’t play against each other much the first time (when UK¿won 69-62 on Dec. 31 in Lexington) because he was in foul trouble in the first half and I was in foul trouble the second half.”
Davis had 18 points and 10 rebounds in 27 minutes in UK’s win while Dieng had five points and five rebounds in 33 minutes.
Davis said Thursday he was fine after injuring his left knee in Sunday’s win over Baylor.
“I sat out some. Did some things. Rode the bike a little,” Davis said. “It’s about 90 percent. I’ll be fine. I’ve just got to keep icing it.”
Both Kentucky coach John Calipari and Louisville coach Rick Pitino insisted Thursday that the game would be played at a fast pace. That could both favor UK¿point guard Marquis Teague, who has been praised by Calipari for the way he controls a game’s pace, as well as pressure him because of the way the Cardinals might attack him with their full-court pressure.
“They are really good on defense. They pressure the ball a lot and try to force a lot of turnovers. You just have to stay calm and try to pass the ball through their press,” Teague, who had five assists and four turnovers against Louisville, said. “We know we have to limit our turnovers and we have to be ready for their press. Last time the press kind of bothered us, which caused us to make a few silly turnovers that we did not need.
“We know they are going to press the whole game. We think they are going to play us in a 2-3 zone, but we really won’t know until the game starts.”
Calipari certainly sounded like he would welcome Louisville trying to press and harass Teague.
“Everything we do is through that position. Early in the year he wasn’t consistent defensively, but that’s normal for a freshman,” Calipari said. “The second thing is that he was playing way too fast to the point of being out of control and turning it over. The third thing is his shot selection was suspect.
“He’s a pit bull. He’s great in pick-and-roll defense. His pace of game right now is as good as any point guard in the country. He’s picking his spots when to shoot. He’s playing the game as it’s presented to him, not fast and out of control. It’s been outstanding. The reason we have become the most efficient team in the country, I can rest it right on his shoulders on what he has done.”
Louisville point guard Peyton Siva has been credited with keying his team’s eight-game postseason win streak that propelled the Cardinals, a No. 4 seed, into the Final Four. He was only 2-for-13 from the field against UK¿and had three turnovers.
“I have to stay away from stupid fouls,” Siva, who fouled out of the Elite Eight win over Florida, said. “Trying to stay aggressive, move my feet, contain the ball and stay away from those types of fouls. I¿have to pick my spots, to not go for home runs all the time and just try to hit the singles.”
Louisville senior Kyle Kuric says there was a reason Louisville held Kentucky to 69 points in the first game.
“We tried to slow the ball down a little bit to keep the score low,”¿Kuric said. “They did not shoot the ball well. We didn’t, either. This game we will try to run a little more and get the score higher.”
Calipari thinks that could happen, too, since ¿UK was only 17-for-57 from the field (Doron Lamb 1-for-7, Teague 1-for-8, Darius Miller 1-for-9) and Louisville 20-for-62 (Siva 2-for-13, Chris Smith 2-for-10).
“I think our game Saturday will be in the 90s,” Calipari said. “We practiced like Indiana. We do not want to be in a hurry to score, but we want to play fast. I think teams will go up and down and will be doing it with players that are really good players.”
Lamb, UK’s top scorer, said shooting in the Superdome Thursday suited him.
“I like playing in football arenas because they’re real big, and we’ve got a lot of fans that come support us. Our team is used to playing in them. It doesn’t bother me,” Lamb said. “Everybody says you shoot different, but it doesn’t really bother me.”
Kentucky sophomore Terrence Jones is looking for a fast pace and high scoring game as well, something he says suits him.
“I¿don’t think they are going to slow the game down at all. I think they are going to full-court press, pressure and be the team they have been all tournament — just playing good offense and controlling the court with great ball control, lots of physical pressure on defense and lots of physical play. It should be a fun game to play in,” Jones said. “They came and played a real physical game the first time.”
Pitino also said not to buy into the theory that Louisville is playing with “house money” and has nothing to lose since it was not expected to be in the Final Four like No. 1 Kentucky.
“Let’s quit now and go home with the money then,”¿Pitino joked. “A gambler’s money has no home. You have to leave with it. They have been here two years in a row. Very few times do you get to a Final Four. This is our chance to win a championship. We have everything to lose just like they do. It’s not easy to even get here.”
Final Four: Louisville, Kentucky players say they're ready for Saturday matchup
Anthony Davis wrestles inside against Baylor. (Clay Jackson photo / March 30, 2012)