And to think some people thought Louisville might have actually been on the bubble. Not after Thursday’s night 84-71 win over Marquette in a Big East Tournament semifinal.
Even more impressive was that the Cardinals (24-9) won with big man Gorqui Dieng saddled with foul trouble. Gorqui picked up a technical foul with 8:15 left in the first half. The 6-11 sophomore from Senegal already had two fouls, so the technical pushed him to three fouls. Dieng still was effective. He finished with eight points, 10 rebounds and three blocks in 22 minutes.
Those numbers were solid, but he usually plays 32-plus minutes per game. No matter, because junior forward Jared Swopshire came off the bench and posted eight points and a career-high 12 and rebounds in 20 minutes.
“When Gorqui went out Jared gave us a big lift, a tremendous lift,” said Louisville coach Rick Pitino. “We didn’t lose a whole lot.”
Swopshire had been averaging 3.4 points and 2.7 rebounds in 12-plus minutes of action this season. Swopshire also had a hand in limiting Marquette’s Jae Crowder, the Big East Player of the Year, to 10 points in 31 minutes.
Said Swopshire: “It was fun for me. He’s a great player. And me and Chane [Behanan] talked about it when I subbed in that we wanted to keep him from getting his touches, especially in the paint area.”
Louisville also got a boost off the bench from Russ Smith, who finishd with 12 points and four assists in just 20 minutes.
It’s that type of depth that could make the Cardinals a force in the NCAA Tournament.