March 17, 2013
Standing in the center circle for the opening tipoff of the last tournament of the old Big East, Louisville’s Gorgui Dieng knew the moment was weighty, but he may not have recognized just how much so.
Not until he sat at his locker after the game, with a shiny black box containing a shiny tournament championship ring in his lap, did he allow a moment of reflection.
“I’m never going to forget that,” Dieng said of the tipoff. “It’s a great memory. I had a lot of fun.”
It seems somehow fitting that the first player to touch the ball Saturday was Dieng, the 6-foot-11 center from Senegal, who had never watched a Big East tournament game until he played in one, as a freshman in 2011.
He had no idea what the tournament format meant then or how it unfolded. But in three seasons, as the starting center on two title-winning teams, Dieng has made himself an indelible part of the tournament’s history.
He was the centerpiece of Louisville’s defense Saturday, when their second-half turnaround led to a 78-61 victory against Syracuse, ending the game on a 44-10 run. The Cardinals went into halftime trailing, 35-22, but with an understanding of the defensive adjustment they needed to make.
Syracuse had made 6 of 12 3-pointers, including two each by James Southerland and C. J. Fair. That could not happen again.
The Cardinals made certain it did not with their two guards, Peyton Siva and Russ Smith, defending the ball around the perimeter incessantly, not allowing the Orange’s outside shooters any breathing room to even consider pulling the trigger. They could afford to gamble and extend because of Dieng, the conference’s defensive player of the year, who was an intimidating force in the middle.
“We dog the basketball and make a frenzy,” Smith said. “When you have a presence like that in the paint, it makes things a lot easier.”
Dieng did many of the little things for Louisville — hustling after loose balls, passing in the middle of Syracuse’s zone, screening for the ball-carriers and bringing down tough rebounds when needed. He finished with 9 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals and a block,
“Gorgui was the facilitator,” Louisville Coach Rick Pitino said, referring to his role in the offense. For most of the game, Dieng was positioned at about the free-throw line in the center of Syracuse’s 2-3 zone, and his size created sight lines he could use to find the open man.
Often it was Montrezl Harrell, who scored 20 points. Dieng’s wraparound pass to Harrell for a dunk with 2 minutes 32 seconds left was one of the game’s many highlights.
“You need length to play against Syracuse,” Pitino said, nodding at Harrell. “That’s where this young man came in. You’ve got Gorgui and him.”
The Cardinals were second in the nation in steals a game this season with 10.8, but they did not seem to dial up the defensive intensity until the second half Saturday. Syracuse went into halftime having turned the ball over only seven times; by the end of the game, their total was 20.
“They’re the best pressing team that we’ve seen all year,” Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim said.
Dieng’s improvement over the last year might be the biggest difference for Louisville, which went to the Final Four a season ago with largely the same lineup it trotted out Saturday. Dieng, though, has made significant strides.
He was named the Big East’s defensive player of the year after averaging 9.9 rebounds, 2.6 blocks and 1.3 steals a game. He also shot 51 percent from the field and averaged a career-high 10.1 points.
Pitino screams his name constantly (Pitino pronounces it “Gaw-gee!” in his New York accent), positioning the lanky center in Louisville’s complex offensive sets like an oversized chess piece.
“Sometimes he gets me confused,” Dieng said, smiling. “But I listen to him. I know he puts me in the right spot.”
He knows now what the Big East tournament means, now that he has been at the top of the ladder twice, as the unassuming man in the middle who has learned a lot in three short years.
“No one’s going to mention basketball now in the Big East without mentioning us,” Dieng said. “That’s a good thing.”
Montrezl Harrell was born on January 26th, 1994 according to http://www.gocards.com/sports/m-baskbl/mtt/montrezl_harrell_815133.html
January 26th, 1994
1 + 26 +1+9+9+4 = 50 = his life lesson = Overjoyed. This is how good life can be. It’s a wonderful life. Family life.
January 26th, 1994
1 + 26 = 27 = his core number = Starter. Starting player.
January 26th, 1994
26 +1+9+9+4 = 49 = his “secret” number = Happy. Smiling. Satisfied. Wish come true.
January 26th, 1994
1 + 26 +2+0+1+3 = 33 = his personal year (from January 26th, 2013 to January 25th, 2014) = Fierce. Putting on a good show.
33 year + 3 (March) = 36 = his personal month (from March 26th, 2013 to April 25th, 2013) = Maximum effort. Having his work cut out for him. Full court press. Feeling like the weight of the world is on his shoulders. The height of achievement.
using the number/letter grid:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
A B C D E F G H I
J K L M N O P Q R
S T U V W X Y Z
A = 1 J = 1 S = 1
B = 2 K = 2 T = 2
C = 3 L = 3 U = 3
D = 4 M = 4 V = 4
E = 5 N = 5 W = 5
F = 6 O = 6 X = 6
G = 7 P = 7 Y = 7
H = 8 Q = 8 Z = 8
I = 9 R = 9
46529583 8199533 80
his path of destiny = 80 = Devastating the other team.
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