LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Coming off a five-overtime loss at Notre Dame, with two days off and the coach out of town, you'd figure that the University of Louisville basketball team would take a moment to rest and regroup.
Wrong. Cardinal captains Gorgui Dieng, Peyton Siva and Luke Hancock met together and decided there would be no sitting back and licking wounds, even if the NCAA does require coaches to give them one day a week without supervised workouts. They led their own workouts, Dieng with the big men, Siva with the guards and Hancock with the forwards.
"We're not going to stop working," Dieng said after pulling down a career-high 17 rebounds in a 72-58 win over St. John's at the KFC Yum! Center Thursday night. "This is about our season, about our team. We need to stick around and work out. . . . We cannot lose anymore. That's enough."
In a game of spurts and stops, the Cardinals used an early 11-0 run to take the lead, then lost it on a 14-3 run, took a nine-point halftime lead with an 8-0 run to close the half, then gave up 10 straight points to start the second.
But the Cardinals got 21 of Russ Smith's game-high 23 points in the second half and got 12 points from Peyton Siva, including eight points in one of his best offensive stretches of the season late in the first half, to improve to 20-5, 8-4 in the Big East.
The Cards were whistled for a season-low eight fouls and committed only eight turnovers. And behind Dieng's rebounds, kept an athletic St. John's team off the offensive glass, giving up no second-chance points in the first half and eight in the second.
The Cards made 20 of 26 second-half free throws and 23 of 30 in the game.
"I'm really happy with the victory," Pitino said. "We still have a lot of little things to improve out there."
Pitino specifically mentioned not forming solid traps, leaving three-point shooters in the zone, and some fundamental mistakes by Dieng offensively in the post. But the coach blamed himself for some of Dieng's struggles, saying he's playing the junior too many minutes.
"It was a good defensive effort for us tonight," said Pitino, who lightened things up in the postgame locker room by igniting the Harlem Shuffle with his team. The roar was audible to reporters waiting outside to get in for postgame interviews. "It's a lot of little things that can be fixed very easily, fundamentals, that will make us better once we learn those."
U of L outscored St. John's 32-16 in the paint, 15-6 off turnovers and 13-2 on fast-break points. St. John's seven blocked shots equaled the most this season for a U of L opponent, matching the number Memphis had in a Cardinal victory in December.
Now U of L heads back on the road for a Sunday matchup against South Florida. Pitino said having Smith play better on the road will be one point of emphasis.
"Now we've got to improve his play on the road," Pitino said. "We did a little matchup of how he plays on how he plays at home versus the road and it's so significant it's scary in terms of his field goal percentage. So we've got to focus in on the why, figure it out, because he shoots a very low percentage on the road. So we're going to talk about that."
Pitino set the goal for his team of winning its remaining regular season games. Now the Cards are one down, six to go.
"We have to come together as a team," Siva said. "We can't worry about the past. Coach told us if we learn from the Notre Dame loss, then it will be worth it. So we're going to do that and continue working hard."