1. Blackshear has career-best game: Sophomore Wayne Blackshear didn't start for the second straight game after returning from a minor shoulder injury. But the Chicago native had the best game of his career. He hit 7 of 11 from the field and scored a career-high 19 points. He also had four fouls in 14 minutes of action, but Blackshear looked so smooth and comfortable on the offensive end. Blackshear said he didn't mind coming off the bench and Pitino said he's likely to stay there as long as the team keeps winning. The veteran coach also said after the game he wants Blackshear to get better at taking the ball off the bounce, noting that he's "then going to be a hell of a player." He's getting closer and closer to the Blackshear that I watched in high school – before his shoulder injuries.
2. Monster second half performance: It wasn't very pretty in the first half for either team, especially the Cardinals. There were bad fouls, ugly turnovers and just some all-around bad basketball. But the Cards turned it on in the second half and a lot of that had to do with defense. U of L scored 13 straight points early in the second half after Rutgers tied it at 28, it was the start of a 23-2 run that put the game away. The Cardinals defense was up to par in the second half, while I felt a huge difference was the play of Russ Smith. He tried to force the issues a lot in the first half, not getting a whole lot done in the offense.
3. Gorgui looking like Gorgui: Gorgui Dieng only scored two points in 34 minutes and was just 1 of 4 from the field. But the junior center had a major impact in the game with eight rebounds and six blocked shots. He altered pretty everything the Scarlet Knights tried to do in the second half. Since his return from the broken wrist, I hadn't seen a game by Dieng where I felt he was really all the way back to normal. I know he's struggling on the offensive end a bit – and that will come – but it sure is nice to see Dieng playing at a high, high level on defense.
4. Kevin Ware two games back from suspension: One week ago, the status of Kevin Ware was uncertain. Ware had been suspended for one game by Rick Pitino and there was no timetable for his return. Since then, Ware has been reinstated to the roster and had two of his better games in recent memory. On Sunday, Ware didn't have a lot of stats but admittedly was "more active like coach wants me to be," playing solid on defense and getting his hands on some balls. In 18 minutes against Rutgers, Ware had seven points, three rebounds, one assist and just one turnover. He again was active. Ware isn't going to be a star this season on this team but he's going to be a key if the Cards want to make a deep run.
5. A few other leftovers: Nice game by Peyton Siva – again – with nine points, seven assists and just one turnovers. Also only two fouls for the point guard. . . . The 40-22 second half was impressive. . . . The Russ Smith dunk was ridiculous, while his Mohawk was pretty sweet. I'm assuming the new haircut was for his return home. . . . Cards were 7 of 15 from three-point range. . . . Montrezl Harrell didn't have his best game, only two rebounds in 17 minutes. . . . Chane Behanan had eight points and seven rebounds but had three turnovers and two came off his attempt to make that spin move down the lane.