Not so long ago Gorgui Dieng would have wilted against an imposing 290-pounder like Eugene Teague, unable to stop the Seton Hall behemoth from having his way like he did against freshman Zach Price during his frustrating five minutes against Seton Hall.
No offense to Price, a first-year player who is 60 to 70 pounds heavier than Dieng was as a freshman. Gorgui simply wouldn’t allow himself to get pushed around. They’re about the same weight now. Has more to do with experience, technique and Gorgui’s approach to the game, eager to benefit from the hard lessons.
The University of Louisville basketball team would have been in trouble back then, giving Seton Hall the threat of dominating the paint and the area beyond the three-point arc. Remember Jeremy Hazell? Finally gone, but that kind of circus crazy, making the home crowd get crazy.
Not in this game, not with Dieng containing the big guy underneath, and Rick Pitino demanding the old focus on shutting down the three-point game, nothing less in the second half, UofL finally having its way in a 73-57 win.
But back to Gorgui, who may have been enjoying the best overall performance thus far, blocking four shots, pulling down 14 rebounds, leading his team in scoring with 16 points. Even managing a couple of steals, one of them an assist, setting his Russ Smith for a dunk in the slow starting second half.
Gasping for breath on the free throw line between all the body blows, one has time to think about how far Dieng has come and wonder how good will be before he graduates. He calmly swishes eight out of eight free throw attempts.
Such a calming presence, keeping things in perspective, on and off the court. So eager to learn, getting better, getting the job done.