Gorgui Dieng contests Marquis Teague's layup last April (Getty Images)If Louisville is going to avenge its Final Four loss to in-state rival Kentucky later this month, the Cardinals will likely have to do it without shot-blocking center Gorgui Dieng.
Louisville coach Rick Pitino told reporters at a news conference Tuesday that the date Dieng is targeting for his return from his broken left wrist is Jan. 2 against Providence. Pitino initially had been hoping to get Dieng back on the court in time for Saturday's game against Western Kentucky and had been optimistic he'd be able to play Dec. 29 against Kentucky.
"Gorgui’s latest exam with the doctor didn’t go as well as my optimism was," Pitino said, before adding, "The last X-ray we thought it would be healed, and it was not."
Dieng broke his left wrist on Nov. 23 in the Cardinals’ 84-61 win over Missouri in the Bahamas. He had averaged 8.2 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocked shots in five games, a slight downtick from the 9.1 points, 9.1 rebounds and 3.2 blocked shots he posted during a breakout season the previous year.
With Dieng sidelined, Louisville has either split his playing time at center among reserve big men Stephan Van Treese and Zach Price or gone small with forward Chane Behanan sliding over to center. Van Treese is bothered by a lingering knee injury, but he could be available in a limited capacity Wednesday against Florida International.
It's a testament to the rest of the Cardinals that Dieng's absence has not diminished Louisville's defensive effectiveness.
Opposing teams are shooting only 39.8 percent from the floor against Louisville and are averaging only 55.6 points per game and 0.79 points per possession. Those are imposing statistics that may only increase once Dieng is back in the paint to protect the rim.