Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng said it first: This season’s University of Louisville basketball team may be even better than last year’s championship team.
Not even close right now but one has to begin somewhere and this was a pretty good start.
Struggling with their shots, the Cardinals were barely keeping Charleston at bay, holding only a 48-45 lead in what appeared to be headed for buzzer beater. Over the next 6:10, however, they would outscore the visitors 22-3 and claim a 70-48 win over the visitors.
Guess who played a leading role? None other than Stephan Van Treese, who had had his coach shaking his head at him after two exhibition games. The coach was wondering out loud whether Van Treese would ever emerge from his backup role into a leader. All intended to motivate Van Treese, of course.
During the final stretch, Van Treese would block a shot and make three steals. The switch actually appeared to turn on for the 6-foot-9 Hoosier even earlier when he scored on a layup and a dunk, waking up the opening game crowd of 20,900 fans.
The new Van Treese just wasn’t going to let them hang around any longer. He would total seven rebounds and six points for the day.
Russ Smith had adopted the all-in approach thus far this season, looking for his teammates before he looks at the basket. Up to a point, that is. During the closing foray, he would contribute nine points and two assists, contributing a team-leading 21 points along with five assists.
Mangok Mathiang not to be overlooked, resembling a stronger, more aggressive Gorgui at times, while pulling down 10 rebounds and adding seven points.
Chris Jones is better than the analysts said he could be, providing a major contrast in style from Peyton Siva. He has the confidence, size and speed to go to the basket without the extra moves Peyton perfected over four seasons. He’s a good outside shooter as well, but will give up the ball if a teammate has a better shot. Added 12 points and five assists to go with six rebounds.
Add Luke Hancock, Kevin Ware and Chane Behanan to the mix and this team just may be able to live up to Gorgui and Peyton’s expectations.