LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Peyton Siva scored 15 points, freshman center Gorgui Dieng posted his first career double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds and No. 16 Louisville rolled by punchless No. 13 Connecticut 71-58 on Friday night.
The Cardinals (20-7, 9-5 Big East) bounced back from a loss at Cincinnati on Wednesday by harassing UConn star Kemba Walker into a rare off night.
The national player of the year candidate finished with 16 points on 3-of-10 shooting and received a technical foul late in the second half after venting his frustrations at officials.
Jamal Coombs-McDaniel also scored 16 points for the Huskies (20-6, 8-6), but UConn ran out of gas after taking its only lead of the game early in the second half.
While UConn sagged, Louisville surged. The Cardinals took control for good with a 15-4 burst to sweep the season series from the Huskies.
Dieng, forced into action after starter Terrence Jennings ran into foul trouble, held his own against UConn's bigger, more experienced frontline of Alex Oriakhi and Charles Okwandu — using his long arms to reach for rebounds and his soft hands to control the ball in traffic.
It allowed the Cardinals to hold a 40-36 edge on the boards and overcome a subpar night from senior captain Preston Knowles, who finished with six points on 2-of-13 shooting but added seven assists.
UConn trailed by as much as 12 in the first half but went on a 9-0 burst to start the second half and take its first lead at 32-31 on an emphatic putback dunk by Oriakhi.
The Huskies' momentum lasted all of 30 seconds.
Kyle Kuric drilled a 3-pointer from his customary spot in the corner, then followed with another from the top of the key on Louisville's next possession. Siva added one of his own and the Cardinals were back in command.
The win gave Louisville its eighth straight 20-win season and all but secured a spot in next month's NCAA tournament, not bad for a team ravaged by injuries and considered an afterthought in the Big East when the season began.
The Cardinals did it by doing what so few teams have been able to do this season: slow down Walker.
Shadowing him by extending matchup zone defense to well beyond the 3-point line, Walker never appeared to get comfortable. He missed his first three shots, his first make coming on a fortunate banked-in 3-pointer.
The rest of the Huskies weren't much better. While Coombs-McDaniel kept UConn in it with 11 points, the rest of the team went just 3 of 18 from the field.
Still, the Huskies trailed 31-23 at the break as Louisville missed a chance to put it away early despite some spectacular plays by Siva. The 5-foot-11 sophomore threw down a 360-degree dunk following a steal at one point an added a couple of difficult lay-ups, but Louisville's offense looked out of sync when he went to the bench.
It allowed UConn to keep it close for awhile, but the Huskies faded late in the second half while playing their second game in just over 48 hours.
With the game slipping away late in the second half, Walker drew a rare technical foul after badly missing a runner in the lane. He turned toward the officials and begged for a call and got one, but not the one he wanted.
Knowles made one of the two free throws to extend Louisville's lead to 67-51 with 3:31 to play and start the celebration.
The game came just hours after Louisville coach Rick Pitino closed one of the more difficult personal chapters of his life. A federal judge sentenced Karen Sypher to more than seven years in prison on Friday afternoon following her conviction last summer on extortion and other charges against Pitino stemming from a sexual tryst in a Louisville restaurant in 2003.
Pitino had no comment on the sentence, though his attorney Steve Pence said the coach was "glad" the ordeal was behind him.